Articles in Category: Macroeconomics

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Steel Market Update’s 2017 Steel Summit kicked off in Atlanta this week and the topic on everyone’s minds was Hurricane Harvey and the far-reaching impact it will have on the Houston region.

The humanitarian impact of Harvey cannot be overstated, but the economic impact on Houston, an industrial hub in the southern United States, will be felt in both the short- and long-term, with freight transportation at a virtual standstill (Port Houston operations resumed today, according to an alert on the Port Houston website).

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According to SMU, FTR Transportation Intelligence reports up to 10% of U.S. truck capacity will be disrupted in the next two weeks.

“Look for spot prices to jump over the next several weeks with very strong effects in Texas and the South Central region, Noel Perry, partner at FTR, told SMU. “Spot pricing was already up strong, in double-digit territory. Market participants could easily add 5 percentage points to those numbers.”

Gas Prices Surge

In response to fuel supply disruptions from Hurricane Harvey, average national gasoline prices grew to $2.37 per gallon earlier this week, and continued to surge to $2.51 Friday morning, according to the AAA website.

“It’s still really early to tell what this is going to mean for long-term supply,” Denton Cinquegrana, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, told SMU. “If some of these refineries are flooded, it’s going to take weeks to get the water out of there and then get into damage assessment.”

How will steel and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth steel price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

Nickel prices maintained near nine-month highs mid-week, due in part to Chinese stainless steel mill demand and decreased supplies from the Philippines, a top exporter of ore.

According to a report from Reuters, nickel prices peaked earlier in the week to $11,885 a ton, its highest point since November 2016. Year-over-year, nickel prices are up more than 15%.

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“Stainless steel demand in China and elsewhere has surprised on the upside and talk about nickel consumption in lithium-ion batteries has helped,” Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar told the news source.

“Supplies have been under stress,” Bhar added. “The Philippines exported less for various reasons, including monsoon rains, mine inspections and shutdowns. Some NPI (nickel pig iron) capacity has been shut in China because of environmental inspections.”

Nickel Lagging Behind in the Bull Run

Our own Irene Martinez Canorea recently wrote that nickel, along with tin and lead, are more reticent to join the bull rush with aluminum, copper and zinc.

She writes: “Even though the industrial metal outlook remains bullish, lead and tin seem to be behaving on their own terms. Buying organizations will want to pay careful attention to trading volumes in the coming month.”

How will nickel and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth nickel price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

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The International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) released its August report, which found the global market for refined zinc metal was in deficit during the first half of the year. Total reported inventories declined over that time, as well.

Global production from zinc mines grew 5.4% compared to the first half of last year, mostly due to a boost in output from Peru, India and Eritrea.

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Furthermore, zinc production suffered in places like Canada, Thailand, Peru and the Republic of Korea, leading to an overall worldwide increase of just 0.5% after factoring in growth in places like France, Brazil and India.

The ILZSG report stated: “Despite a decrease in Chinese apparent demand for refined zinc metal of 2.1%, global usage rose by a marginal 0.6%. This was mainly due to increases in the United States and Taiwan (China).”

Gauging the Zinc Price Ceiling

Our own Fouad Egbaria wrote just last week that zinc has really hit its stride, recently hitting its highest price point in more than a decade ($3,180.50).

Just how high can the zinc price fly? Reuters’ Andy Home states:

“But right now the LME zinc market is bubbling away with stocks falling and spreads tightening. Volatility seems assured but can zinc return to the heady days of late 2006/early 2007, when the price peaked out at $4,580?”

How will zinc and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth zinc price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

An interesting article in the Financial Times explores the decline of global capital flows since the financial crisis and how the nature of capital flows has changed markedly since 2007.

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The article draws on research by the McKinsey Global Institute looking at how bank lending, particularly European cross-border bank lending, has shriveled up and been partially replaced by company fixed-asset investment. That, we would normally say, is a good thing. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is usually a more productive commitment by companies in factories and other facilities.

But the concern is the main factor behind the expansion in FDI has been the flow of investment booked in “financial centers” — the polite phrase for low-tax countries such as Ireland, the Financial Times says.

A lot of this money represents tax-motivated profit shifting that simply shows up on balance of payments as FDI flows.

Cross-border capital flows are down significantly from where they were when the global financial crisis began, the Financial Times reports. The $4.3 trillion that flowed around the world last year was only a third of the peak of $12.4 trillion in 2007. While no one is suggesting a return to those levels would be a good idea – much of that liquidity resulting from savings in China and other emerging market economies and the wealth of oil exporters found its home in U.S. property, helping build a bubble that led to the financial crisis — but nor is it healthy that firms are squirreling away billions off-shore to avoid tax at home. Think Apple’s massive off-shore war chest, as an example.

Another major change that the world is only just catching up to is the shift in capital account balances.

At the time of the financial crisis, China had the world’s biggest surplus while the U.S. had the largest surplus on its current account – mainly trade. Now, it is China and Japan, as the graph below shows, and politicians in the U.S. are only just catching up to the idea that Germany is the mercantilist of the second half of this decade, not China. It should be said, however, that all imbalances have declined relative to GDP.

Source Financial Times

Finally — and this will not come as any surprise — the role of mature economies is waning compared to emerging markets.

Developed economies are sending significantly less money overseas in the form of FDI than they did before the crisis. Their share of global FDI has also been falling as China’s role has grown. This is already causing a reaction in the U.S. and Europe to Chinese firms buying up famous and occasionally strategic firms and assets, and may yet lead to legal barriers being raised to prevent further encroachment.

Free Download: The August 2017 MMI Report

The lead price grew this week following a Chinese-issued ban on North Korean exports.

According to a report from Reuters, lead’s sister metals also rebounded, in response to once-rising geopolitical tension easing up a bit and Chinese data, a top metals consumer, coming in higher than expected.

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“Those Chinese numbers (on Monday) were quite soft … I suppose the only glimmer of light came in the new yuan loans, which beat consensus, and maybe that suggests that things will remain stable as we go forwards,” Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale in London, told Reuters.

“The metals seem well poised. After a period of consolidation this week perhaps we’ll have another push towards those (recent) highs going forward,” Bhar added.

Lead Price Movement in August

Earlier this month, our own Fouad Egbaria reported that Chinese primary lead posted a price increase, growing 3.3% to $2,694.90/metric ton.

How will lead and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth lead price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

The bullish trend has become even stronger.

Copper and zinc prices have joined the bullish trend led by aluminum in the latest rally, which started at the beginning of August.

This new uptrend in these three metals is accompanied by heavy buying volume — signaling a a bull market.

Benchmark Your Current Metal Price by Grade, Shape and Alloy: See How it Stacks Up

As suggested in our article published Tuesday, aluminum prices have outperformed and broke out from their sideways trend.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

Copper prices have decided to join in on the fun, and are also trending up again.

After the breathtaking rise that copper prices demonstrated at the end of July, prices are up again. A bullish sentiment has returned for copper.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

Zinc prices have also hit their highest levels recorded since 2007, according to FastMarkets historical data, and point to a possible continuing uptrend. A rally in zinc prices occurred just after the sharp increase in aluminum prices. Buying trading volumes remain heavy, therefore the uptrend is underpinned by strong buying sentiment.

Overall Outlook

Although MetalMiner considers a variety of variables, indexes and data to analyze market sentiment, the most important variable is how metal prices behave.

Commodities have re-started a short-term uptrend after they lost steam at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, industrial metals have moved from bullish (to nearly sideways/top, as we had even considered switching our industrial metal outlook to bearish but did not) to absolutely bullish again (mainly caused by these three metals rallies). The U.S. dollar has fallen relentlessly since the beginning of the year.

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What This means for Buying Organizations

Buying organizations should watch metal prices closely to determine the best strategy to commit long- and short-term purchases.

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Popular wisdom suggests a currency devaluation results in a boost to exports and the economy. The devaluation of the currency allows manufacturers, in particular, to sell their products at lower prices in export markets and therefore achieve growth at the expense of their competitors.

Benchmark Your Current Metal Price by Grade, Shape and Alloy: See How it Stacks Up

Many countries have been trying to quietly engineer just such a devaluation.

Some have done it overtly, like Japan, and others simply by being part of a bloc, such as Germany – it being widely accepted that the Deutschmark, if it still existed, would have Germany at an exchange rate like Switzerland or Norway, rather than the more competitive Euro.

So when Britain inexplicably voted to leave the European Union and the Pound sterling dropped in minutes on the news, many held the near 17% devaluation as a panacea for Britain’s economic ills, as the onset of a renaissance for manufacturing companies able to aggressively export to the world while simultaneously undercutting competitors.

The reality has proved somewhat otherwise.

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A once abandoned U.K. mine with a rich tin mining history may get another shot at resurrection thanks to a Canadian company.

The South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall has been shut down for nearly two decades, but Canada-based Strongbow Exploration is well on its way to reopening the mine still rich in tin.

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According to a report from The Telegraph, the South Crofty mine didn’t shut down because its tin bounty depleted — in fact, it shut down because of falling tin prices.

The news source states that if all things go according to plan, the mine could be reopened by 2020. The hope is that the continual recovery of tin prices will buoy the mine’s resurgence.

“It’s going to be a modern mine in the location of an old mine,” Richard Williams, Strongbow Exploration’s chief executive officer, told The Telegraph.

Once operational, the mine could employ as many as 300 individuals, not counting suppliers.

“We know there’s a resource there, we can identify it with new technology and make the project economic,” Peter Wale, its director, told the The Telegraph.

Once it opens again, the South Crofty mine will be one of just several functioning mines in the U.K., joining Wolf Minerals and ICL, the news source stated.

Tin Price Movement in 2017

How will tin and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth tin price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

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Copper prices are on the ascent, thanks in part to the latest Chinese trade data and genuine excitement among investors over worldwide growth and capacity cuts.

According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, China’s debt crackdown earlier this year led to an adverse effect on metal prices and general worry from investors.

That worry has turned to elation, with copper prices up 7% due to capacity cuts in China. Meanwhile, iron ore prices are up more than 20% since the end of June.

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The most recent Chinese trade data, representing July, painted a different picture with year-over-year growth of Chinese imports of copper concentrate slowing from June’s growth.

Nathaniel Taplin wrote for the Wall Street Journal: “Overall import and export growth also slowed, hinting that the lift to China from rebounding global trade may be close to its peak.”

The takeaway for copper investors impressed with Q2 Chinese growth? Not to get too excited until the whole story is revealed as China’s demand for metals, specifically copper, is weaker than expected.

Copper Prices Still Experiencing a Stellar 2017

Our own Irene Martinez Canorea wrote earlier this week that copper is outperforming all other base metals this month with copper traded on the London Metal Exchange up 7.8% in July.

She wrote: “The sharp increase in copper prices came after an announcement of a possible ban of copper scrap in China by the end of the year. The increase in copper prices was accompanied by heavy volume, which may signal a stronger uptrend.”

How will copper and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth copper price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

China’s continued regulation of its bloated aluminum industry is having a far-reaching impact on the growing share price of its major producers, thus adding to a tighter global market and rising prices.

According to a recent report from Reuters, China represents nearly 60% of worldwide aluminum output with analysts estimating up to 4 million tons of capacity closing this year, accounting for one-tenth of the Far East nation’s total, putting added pressure on the global aluminum market.

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Aluminum Corp of China (Chalco) shares, a state-run entity, increased 47% since the start of last month.

“Chalco is the market leader, so if (competitors) are closing down their capacity, they are able to expand their production,” analyst Helen Lau, of Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong, told Reuters.

Aluminum Prices on the Run

While aluminum prices are on the rise, they may have further to go, analysts tell Reuters. Shanghai aluminum is up around 11% so far this year while benchmark aluminum on the London Metal Exchange is up 14%.

“The trend is definitely towards a much tighter market balance – there is an upshot to prices here definitely,” London-based WoodMackenzie analyst Ami Shivka, told Reuters. “The China market is in a surplus so any closures in China will whittle away the little bit of surplus that we have in China, and put the global market in a deficit.”

How will aluminum and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth aluminum price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds: