Articles in Category: Macroeconomics

It won’t have escaped your notice that the shine has gone off the metals market.

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Prices have been softening across not just metals but other commodities, like oil, too.

Consumers, of course, will not be complaining, but are nevertheless keen to understand what is going on and whether we are seeing a temporary dip or a move into a prolonged bear period.

Commodities in general are facing multiple headwinds.

While demand for iron ore and oil is steady, both markets are in oversupply. Oil prices have received short-term support from favorable comments around output cuts. Prices have subsequently continued to soften as long positions have been unwound and investors have concluded prospects of a supply balance are receding.

In China, the authorities have been squeezing investors by increasing shadow banking borrowing costs, resulting in positions being unwound and prices softening.

In the U.S., markets surged after President Donald Trump’s election victory with the expectation his campaign promises of trillion dollar infrastructure investment would create a building and consumption boom.

Since those heady days, the realization has set in that the desperately needed investment may not be quite as significant as first thought.

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The market for biomedical metals — like the ones used in orthopedic implants — is expected to reach $34.9 billion by 2025, according to a recent market research report. Sandor Kacso/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, a recent report predicts the global biomedical metal market will reach $34.9 billion by 2025, palladium continues to stand strong and metal makers are looking for new markets for their products.

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Market for Biomedical Metals to Only Get Bigger

The market for biomedical metals is large — to put a number on it, it is expected to be valued at $34.9 million by 2025, according to a recent report from Accuray Research LLP.

According to the report, the biomedical metal market is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 7.8% over the next decade.

Among the factors underpinning the expected growth are: increased demand for orthopedic implants; new developments in titanium-based alloys; and recent technical developments in biomedical metal.

Palladium Defies Analysts’ Expectations on Strong Run

At around $900 per ounce, palladium is trading at 16-year highs, according to a Platts report.

Analysts told Platts they saw no justification for palladium’s strength, especially considering a struggling Chinese automotive market (palladium is an important autocatalyst ingredient in gas-powered engines).

One Japanese analyst told Platts the current state of the palladium market was a “once every decade” situation.

Is a reversal in palladium prices on the way? Only time will tell.

New Markets for Metals

According to an article Wednesday in Bloomberg, makers of metals are looking for new commercial uses for their products, particularly as a boom in Chinese demand for raw materials has tempered. In general, China’s intent to crack down on credit — particularly on the heels of May’s Moody’s downgrade — has led many to believe a negative impact for metals markets will follow.

To make up for the loss of Chinese demand, producers of metals are looking for new markets for their products.

What uses do producers have in mind?

According to Bloomberg, a few uses include fertilizer, salmon cages, electric-car batteries and household cleaning products, among others.

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Many expect growth to slow in China through the remainder of the year. As such, producers will have to get creative in finding new uses for their products, from cars to fertilizer and everything in between.

Our June MMI Report is in the books, and there’s a lot to unpack.

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

Out of 10 MMI sub-indexes, four posted no movement from our May MMIs. That wasn’t true for all, though, as the report shows promising signs for construction (compared with last year). Like the Construction MMI, growth in the automotive sector slowed a bit, but still performed better than at the same time last year.

In terms of policy, several things happening around the world will have macroscopic effects on these industries.

Domestically, the Trump administration’s ongoing Section 232 investigation into steel imports will have ripple effects at home and abroad (namely in the Chinese steel market).

In the U.K., the recent shocker of a parliamentary election leaves question marks regarding the way forward — is it going to be a “hard” or “soft” Brexit? Does Theresa May have the political capital to make a hard Brexit happen? It seems unlikely now, but that situation continues to develop. In terms of business and metal markets, whichever iteration of Brexit takes hold will have effects on the ways in which British companies do business with Europe.

In China, many analysts expect growth to slow in the second half of 2017 as the government aims to put the squeeze on credit growth. (Moody’s recently downgraded China’s credit rating for the first time since 1989.)

While several MMI sub-indexes did not go up or down this past month, there was still quite a bit going on in each sector. You can fill yourself in by downloading our June MMI Report, which offers all of the storylines and trends for our 10 MMI sub-indexes, presented in one convenient place.

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British elections and referenda have recently proved to be anything but boring.

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

Last week’s general election — called just a few short weeks ago at a time when Theresa May’s Conservative Party had a small but solid majority and the left wing Labour Party appeared in complete disarray — has delivered a crushing defeat for the prime minister’s hard Brexit policy.

The election result has once again thrown wide open the debate on what kind of deal the U.K. will — or even can — seek to strike with the European Union (EU) over the year ahead.

Theresa May called the election to give herself a stronger mandate to argue with the Europeans that no deal — meaning a break with Europe, falling back on basic World Trade Organization (WTO) rules — would be preferable to any kind of compromise the EU tries to impose.

Although not stated, it was tacitly understood the election was also intended to deliver her a larger majority in the House of Commons. That larger majority would have enabled her to ignore disruptive minor elements of her own party who may disagree with elements of a deal as the negotiation process unfolds.

What transpired was a dramatic swing to the left, with the loss of Conservative seats to the Labour Party. The result? No party enjoyed an overall majority.

The Conservatives have therefore been forced into a loose coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose agenda differs from the Conservatives in one significant way.

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Copper prices rallied late last week on the heels of severe weather striking several South American mines, as well as labor issues cropping up in Indonesia.

According to a report from MarketWatch, copper prices climbed 1.12% to $5,688 per metric ton on the London Metal Exchange last Thursday morning.

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Copper had previously opened the month on the low end, but unexpected weather and labor issues quickly reversed that trend:

“Those mine disruptions in Chile are the major supply-side news this week,” BOCI Global Commodities’s Xiao Fu told the news source.

In China, import data revealed an 8.5% month-over-month increase in refined copper imports.

“That increase is a fairly substantial one and is helping prices rebound after being beaten up over the past few weeks,” ETF Securities strategist Nitesh Shah told the news source.

Copper Prices Affected by Chinese Demand

The MetalMiner Copper MMI remained steady in June. Writes our own Irene Martinez Canorea:

“Currently, copper prices are directly affected by Chinese demand, as well as by uncertainty in supply. This downtrend in copper prices might be just a brief pause in a dynamic market. Thus, copper-buying organizations should watch the market closely, looking for a possible uptrend that would show a recovery.”

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:

eugenesergeev/Adobe Stock

Aluminum exports from Qatar hit a roadblock, and it could be some time before the situation is resolved.

According to a recent Reuters report, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar, leading to an aluminum manufacturing plant, partly owned by Norway’s Norsk Hydro, to seek other routes for export.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

The reason for top Arab nations breaking ties with Qatar? Alleged support of Islamic militants, which Qatar denies.

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Amid political instability, Brazil is attempting to work its way out of its economic recession. readytogo/Adobe Stock

Brazil is struggling with corruption, particularly among the ranks of the elites, according to the Financial Times.

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Just a year after Brazil’s Congress impeached former President Dilma Rousseff, her replacement, 76-year-old Michel Temer, is hanging on to power by a thread following revelations last month that he had engaged in secret talks about bribes with Joesley Batista, the former chairman of meat packing firm JBS. Temer is the least popular president ever, according to a separate FT article, but business leaders and economic analysts say the Brazilian economy desperately needs his reforms if it is to pull itself out of a two-year recession (the worst on record).

Source: Financial Times

A meager bounce in the first quarter offered scant comfort, coming as it did on the back of a record soy bean harvest, up 13.4% and pushing the agricultural sector into positive territory.

Economy Stuck In Recession

The broader economy, however, remains mired in recession.

Interest rates are still at 10.4% to protect against runaway inflation last year. Imports and exports are down 21% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter in 2015, the FT reports.

Although markets have recovered their shock following the exposure of Temer’s apparent acceptance of high-level bribery, Jimena Blanco, head of Latin America research at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk consultancy, is quoted by the FT as saying, “The government is hanging from a thin thread.”

Ripple effects of the Brazilian economy’s struggles

In a more isolationist America, some may ask: Should we care? Brazil’s problems are Brazil’s — it may be the largest economy in South America, but it is still a long way away, some might say.

Well, yes, we should care, despite all the U.S. talk about retrenchment. The U.S. economy is still highly reliant on global trade. Brazil is America’s 10th-largest export market, fitting between France and Taiwan in dollars earned.

Brazil is also an important geopolitical stabilizer for the South American region. While no one is talking of defaults, the prospect of the recession extending indefinitely raises debt servicing, currency and social stability issues.

Temer may not be the best prospect for open and honest government. At the moment, he may be the least bad option.

Free Download: The May 2017 MMI Report

It is something of an unholy alliance, but Russia and Saudi Arabia are becoming ever closer allies in a graphic example of realpolitik.

The two would probably be implacable enemies if their contrarian positions in Syria were any gauge – Russia closely aligned with Iran in their support of Bashar al Assad, yet Iran is Saudi Arabia’s public enemy number one and only major rival in the Middle East.

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But economics trumps almost all, and the two’s interests are certainly aligned in trying to reverse the damage done by Saudi Arabia’s failed bid to squeeze U.S. shale drillers out of the market and the corresponding glut of supply forcing prices to painfully low levels – painful at least for oil producers.

As the FT observed in quoting RBC Capital Markets as saying, “Saudi Arabia and Russia are essentially now co-pilots of this operation (of restricting output to boost prices) and they’ve made it clear there will be no going back to chasing market share.” The article goes on to quote: “It’s a huge change from two years ago when Russia would not co-operate with OPEC and even questioned its relevance in the age of shale.”

The two agreed last week to not only extend but deepen production cuts for a further nine months into 2018.

But not all agree with the International Energy Agency’s prediction that the cuts will be enough to balance supply and demand later this year.

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Liquid steel.

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European steelmakers are coming together to fight a common enemy: EU carbon reforms.

According to a recent report from Reuters, steelmakers across the continent are writing EU leaders, emphasizing they not burden the industry with what they feel are superfluous carbon emission regulation costs. Such costs, they argue, would put them at a competitive disadvantage with their global peers as well as increase the risk of job cuts and plant closures.

“You can avoid burdening the sector with high costs that will constrict investment, or that will increase the risk of job losses and plant closures in the EU,” the CEOs say in an open letter, obtained by Reuters, dated May 28, to EU heads of state and government.

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Nickel, along with zinc, could see a boost on the heels of the Chinese government cracking down on the steel industry.

According to a recent report from Reuters, nickel and zinc prices reached their highest point in more than two weeks with China cutting down on production of both metals.

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“The Chinese government is becoming quite aggressive in targeting environmental problems,” Oxford Economics commodities analyst Dan Smith told Reuters.

With supply in China in question, industrial demand for nickel continues to gain momentum, pushing prices for the metal up, along with prices of aluminum and zinc, according to a recent report from the Economic Times.

On the Multi Commodity Exchange, nickel for delivery in May rose by 0.6%, the Economic Times report stated.

Nickel Price Forecast for 2017

Nickel prices at future trade are also being supported by a boost in demand from alloy producers in the spot market, according to the news source.

How will nickel 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: