Articles in Category: Humor

Here at MetalMiner, we occasionally write about our favorite TV shows, especially when they shed light on the metals and other commodity markets that we cover in depth today.

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Never could there be a better examination of how commodities and commerce changed the New World, with a hand from new technology, than the Starz drama, “Black Sails,” which ends its fourth season and its series run Sunday night.

Black Sails courtesy of Starz network

What’s a pirate show without Blackbeard? Image courtesy of Starz.

What does a dark and very adult prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” have to do with metals, you might ask? Just that the prices of the metals we track today are the same type of information that buccaneers based in the Caribbean in the 18th Century tracked for rum, tea and other shipments marked for plunder in the new world.

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The series stars Toby Stephens as Captain Flint, a former British naval officer turned pirate who leads a crew based out of New Providence Island in the Bahamas. His co-star, Luke Arnold, plays young Quartermaster Long John Silver whose adventures begin 20 years before the events of “Treasure Island” and centuries before his name would ever grace a chain of fast food restaurants known for battered fish. Read more

“The eagles are coming.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Is it a case of the cash-strapped French military turning to a cheaper option or is it some kind of quasi-environmental option to train eagles in a counter drone role?

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A ZDnet article explains that the French military turned to eagles to counter the threat of terrorist or insurgent drones, faced by a nation that considers itself almost under siege from terrorist attacks.

D'Artagon goes drone hunting

D’Artagnon may not have been a full Musketeer, but, trust him, you don’t want none, terrorist drones! Source: Youtube/French military.

At the Mont-de-Marsan military base in southwestern France, the four eagles under training, named after the fictitious four (Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan) heroes of Alexandre Dumas fame, have been undergoing training since June of last year. The article explains that since the November 2015 Paris attacks, France is on high alert for any kind of threat including those from unmanned aerial vehicles or drones feared for their potential to drop small bombs on civilian or even military targets.

In a demonstration at the base one eagle (D’Artagnan) took out an approaching drone at 200 meters in less than 20 seconds, earning himself a food treat. Indeed, food seems to be the key incentive. The young birds are trained from three months of age by serving food on the top of drone wreckage creating an association between UAVs and food, the article explains.

It would seem the French are not alone. Dutch law enforcement officers have also been experimenting with the use of eagles to take out drones. The Dutch police explained the attraction of the birds of prey is that they could takeout drone threats without the need to deploy weaponry which could injure innocents.

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But what about larger drones you may ask? Nevermind those little handheld models available in high street stores or online from hobby shops. Well, the French have a plan. Apparently, they intend to kit out their eagles with leather and kevlar mittens to protect the birds’ talons.

But, you have to ask, what could you reasonably put a 5-kg golden eagle up against before it became unfair competition? Terrorists are unlikely to get their hands on the monsters deployed by major armed forces like the U.S. Army but even category 2 UAVs, like Boeing’s ScanEagle which is used largely for reconnaissance, weigh in at about 20 kg and travel at up to 150km/hr That’s tough opposition for a 5-kg eagle, even if it can match it for top speed and may enjoy Kevlar mitts!

This week, the new Trump administration issued a series of executive orders that revived the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, one that required only American-made steel in all pipeline projects and even created a council of manufacturing CEOs, trade organization and union leaders.

If the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai can have a monorail why can’t San Diego and Tijuana? Source: Adobe Stock/Pavel Lasevsky.

Since trade, manufacturing and infrastructure are playing such a key role in this presidency, and Trump campaigned his way into office saying they would revive our economy and deliver better deals and more prosperity… why stop at walls and pipelines?

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A pipeline is one long metal tube, after all? Yes, we are calling for monorails. Monorails as far as the eye can see. A country with(out) money is a little like a mule with a spinning wheel, after all. It’s not more of an Oracle, idea, either, for those of you who have come from our sister site, SpendMatters.

Here’s my thinking: once that wall across the Southern border is done, we’ll need some way to get guest workers and highly taxed imports across the border. Why not a bona-fide, electrified, six-car monorail from Tijuana to San Diego and back? Or Brownsville to Matamoros? If we’re adding 20% import taxes, after all, the goods that come across could pay for the construction of the wall and the monorail it comes in on.

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San Diego and Orlando could have dueling Sea World monorail stops.

President Trump says his infrastructure plan will include ports, airports, railways and highways, adding a few monorails can’t up the price that much. Just add .3 to the existing $1 trillion bill. Manufacturing and trade are going to be the engines of our economy, after all, so why can’t the engines be mag-lev?

As the new year dawns, we turn our eyes toward the metal markets of 2017. Will the bull run of 2016 continue? What will be the standout performer of the metals we track? Will New Coke finally make a comeback as Even Newer Coke? Only to re-reintroduce Coke Classic in all its aluminum-encased glory? We have predictions. Lots of them.

Steel on Wheels

That’s right, the North American steel market is picking up steam and chugging toward expanded production and renewed profitability for many of the companies we track. Contributor James May said this week that flat products will enjoy higher demand while hot-rolled coil capacity will expand thanks to a combination of new capacity going online (Big River Steel‘s plant is set to open) and the trade policies of the incoming Trump Administration.

Iron Ore Overseas

China consumes over 70% of the world’s seaborne iron ore and a strong year for the Chinese economy bolstered the steelmaking raw material from from $40 per metric ton to $70/mt in global markets last year, an increase that helped re-energize the bottom lines of mining majors Rio Tinto Group, Vale SA, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group.

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This week, Sohrab Darabshaw pointed out that that was cold comfort to smaller miners in India who are still hamstrung by high export taxes and can’t get their ore into China or other lucrative world markets. That could change soon, but MetalMiner Co-Founder Stuart Burns was even more cautious, reminding us that physical iron ore prices were influenced by a rampant futures market last year.

Source: Adobe Stock/Geargodz

“The interplay of the futures market, physical demand from steel mills, and seaborne iron ore supply has too many variables to predict 2017 and ’18 with any certainty,” he said.

Trumping Trade

While some of the markets are still murky, one thing we all agreed on this week was, once Donald Trump is installed as President of the United States, 2017 certainly won’t be boring when it comes to international trade. Read more

Yesterday, the U.S. Mint disclosed that the cost of production of a penny grew to 1.5 cents in 2016. Pennies are now nearly all zinc with a thin sheen of copper covering them so, if you read MetalMiner, it’s no real surprise that the Mint’s zinc costs went up. Or that nickels also cost more to make than they’re worth. Or, finally, that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew previously recommended that the federal government stop making penalties entirely.

Even toll plazas don’t want pennies anymore. Source: Adobe Stock/jojoo64.

In fiscal 2015 the cost was 1.43 cents; in 2014, it was 1.66 cents. The latest figures will be released in the Mint’s upcoming annual report. Maybe Lew has a point. Does anyone really want pennies anymore? Just look at how many of them sit around every day in convenience store give-a-penny, take-a-penny trays. Even tollbooths don’t want pennies anymore. Nickels are becoming as useless for purchases and as unwanted as their fellow more-costly-to-produce cousin, too. Read more

The cost to produce the penny rose to 1.5 cents in the 2016 fiscal year, U.S. Mint spokesman Tom Jurkowsky recently said. That’s the first time costs have been up since 2011, but still just the latest in a string of losses for the most abundant but least valuable coin in circulation.

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In fiscal 2015 the cost was 1.43 cents; in 2014, it was 1.66 cents. The latest figures will be released in the Mint’s upcoming annual report.

For now, Mint facilities in Philadelphia and Denver will continue to stamp out the zinc slugs with a copper coat. In fiscal 2015, they churned out 9.16 billion pennies—more than the nickel (1.48 billion), dime (2.87 billion) and quarter (2.65 billion) combined. The Mint traditionally makes money on the dime and quarter. The combined fiscal weight of materials and overhead sink the penny and nickel, both of which are made of zinc slugs with a fine sheen of copper and nickel, respectively. We’ve documented how the penny and nickel cost more to produce than they are worth before.

Congress would have to pass a law to stop producing either the penny or the nickel.

Should we live like wookiees?

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Well, maybe not EXACTLY like Han Solo’s best pal, Chewbacca, but live in tall, wooden structures?

Wookiee Cultural Center

A wookiee cultural center nestled deep in the trees of Kashyyk. Why don’t we get Pete Nelson to design treehouses for all of us? Painting by the incomparable Ralph McQuarrie. Source: Lucasfilm.

Wookiee civilization, as depicted in the “Star Wars” films, is an advanced, highly sophisticated one. The ape-like humanoids have all of the intelligence of the human characters in the movies, save the ability to vocalize and speak in a language that isn’t moans and growls. Read more

Zinc, lead and tin all hit multiyear highs this week and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries finally agreed on a production — with its own members and Russia — to cut back production so oil prices are up, too.

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We were already in a metals and commodities bull market before the beginning of the week but it’s now more like a bull stampede. They’re even running in India. Lead Forecasting Analyst Raul de Frutos notes that this bull market is particularly unusual because it coincides with a strong U.S. dollar. Since commodities are valued in dollars it’s odd that they’re both up — and rising — at the same time.

MetalMiner co-founder and editor-at-large Stuart Burns also chimed in with vexing information, noting that tin is up while there seems to be abundant to robust supply of the stuff in the Earth’s crust with stable nations and reliable companies set to mine it.

Bulls stampeding in a Madrid sculpture

Don’t get stuck under these guys in the rush to get into this market. Source: Adobe Stock/Kyrien.

So, supply and demand aren’t fueling tin’s rise and that’s likely true for other metals as well. “New money,” as they say, is flowing into metal markets as investors are excited about Chinese construction demand and the prospect of a still nebulous $1 trillion infrastructure plan here in the U.S. China is, once again, driving the demand boat as the U.S. consumes only about 8% of commodities worldwide and the People’s Republic consumes the most. Read more

This abridged, holiday week saw both the U.S. dollar, which recently hit a one-year high, and metals prices surge, abandoning their usual behavior, as investors grew excited about the prospects for both infrastructure spending and a stronger U.S. currency.

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How strong is the dollar? The predictions of a December Federal Reserve interest rate increase are above 90% and the euro is headed in the opposite direction as the currencies are already nearing parity.

The recent rise in metals prices has had some strange market effects. The supposedly more reliable “upstream business,” that Alcoa, Inc. recently separated its aerospace and automotive products into, Arconic, was expected to have a higher stock price and better prospects than the commodity aluminum business that retained the Alcoa name. So much so that CEO Klaus Kleinfeld left with Arconic. Well, Alcoa’s stock has soared since the October split became official. Arconic’s hasn’t.

Now might be the time to buy aluminum forward. We’re not so sure about the long-term prospects for copper, but it’s rise in the last two weeks has been meteoric, nonetheless.

Here in the U.S., we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday and the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Retailers are offering big discounts as they hope that consumers, weary of the election that finally came early this month, are ready to spend, particularly on rare-earth-using electronics.

Online shopping was on pace to reach $2 billion on Thanksgiving Day, up 16% from a year ago, according to Adobe Systems Inc., which tracked visits to e-commerce sites. Even our friends in the U.K. are chasing the online deals.

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If consumer spending increases this season it will be another sign that the U.S. economy is ready to turn a page and maybe, just maybe, return to strong growth. We may have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

Republican Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election this week, and markets have responded favorably since. Metals producers are generally upbeat as it looks as if much of the regulation over power plants and energy consumption that the Obama administration championed will be scrapped.

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The Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan appears to be dead. Trump promised to kill it on the campaign trail and the Supreme Court has already put it on hold.

Regulation: You’re Fired

Any national limit on carbon pollution produced from power is remote in a Trump administration and climate change activists are already concerned about who he might appoint to head the EPA. Let’s get some popcorn and watch.

When it comes to international trade, Trump has been even more of a hawk than he has on environmental policies. He has promised to “renegotiatie” the North American Free Trade Agreement, promised to not sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership and said then there’s the wall he said he’d build between the U.S. and Mexico.

Is all of this campaign bluster? Will Trump speak differently once he’s actually in office? What does this mean for actual policy? We asked Wiley Rein International Trade Practice Attorney Alan Price about it and he said there’s cause for actual concern.

Meanwhile, in actual metals markets this week, the bull market that started early this year shows no signs of letting up. If anything, the election was good for metals. Copper broke resistance and hit a 15-month high this week. It looks as if the bulls will run well into 2017, too.

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The sun rose again on Wednesday. When President-elect Trump met and shook hands with President Obama a sense of normalcy even seemed to return (despite protests in some cities). One can only hope for a break from the bitterness of this very tough presidential campaign. The country needs it.

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