Articles in Category: Macroeconomics

Commodities gave important signals in April/May. The performance of commodity markets has a heavy impact on the price movements on any industrial metal. If you are a metal buyer, it doesn’t matter if you buy aluminum, copper, steel or tin. The information in this article is important for you.

Reuters/Jefferies CRB commodity index. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com

About a month ago I noted that while industrial metals were on the rise, commodities were range-bound, a sign of sluggish global demand. As I had written, “a healthy bull market in base metals should be accompanied by a bull market in other commodity markets.” Commodities not only have struggled to make new headway but in the past few days they weakened significantly. Recent moves in China have caused a significant shift of sentiment in financial markets.

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China Curbs on Credit

Interest rates in China have risen to the highest level in two years amid the country’s tough talks on curbing credit. China is putting on the brakes on credit growth, and the effects of those policies are already starting to be felt. As the Financial Times reported, “China Vanke, one of China’s biggest property developers, was [recently] forced to drop a bond sale… blaming changes in market conditions.”

The noticeable tightening in Chinese monetary policy is bad news for its property markets. The country has also pledged to halt risky local funding for the construction of infrastructure projects. Investors know that this will hurt demand for commodities and industrial metals. Read more

Aluminum Rod

Goldman Sachs is bullish on aluminum, projecting it to rise following China’s supply-side reforms.

According to a recent report from CNBC, Goldman expects aluminum prices to hit the $2,000 per metric ton point in six months and $2,100 per ton in a year.

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Year-to-date, aluminum prices have outperformed other industrial metals, climbing roughly 15% compared to steel and 3% compared to copper, the news source stated.

“In our view, this strong performance has reflected an increase in the potential for aluminum to be the next target of supply-side reform in China, a tightening ex-China balance, and rising costs of production,” wrote the bank’s analysts. “Further, global political developments may also be supportive of capacity and production cuts, given the two leaders of the U.S. and China launched a 100-day (trade) plan on April 7. These developments support our existing view that aluminum is the next target for supply-side reform in China,” they added. Read more

Palladium prices rose to a two-year high in April, making it the biggest gainer among precious metals. Last month we outlined some of the factors contributing to the palladium price rise: a growing auto sector; a strong South African currency; a falling dollar; and bullish sentiment across industrial metals. However, as prices continue to climb, it’s time to question how high prices can go. Despite a still solid outlook, there are some reasons to believe palladium prices could be nearing their peak:

Palladium prices hit 2-year high. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com data

Global Demand for Cars

Eighty percent of palladium demand comes from cars. China has the largest auto market, followed by the United States. Therefore, car sales in these two countries are very important for palladium’s demand outlook.

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Car sales in the U.S. fell short of expectations in March, down 1.6% compared with March 2016. After two years of record sales, the auto industry seems to have hit a plateau. The U.S. industry might have to come up with discounts and incentives to continue to increase sales.

US total vehicle sales. Source: tradingeconomics.com

Car sales in China rose 13.7% in 2016 compared to 2015. The astonishing performance of China’s auto market helped boost palladium prices last year. Sales are still running strong this year but not at the same pace as last year. According to the Wall Street Journal, sales of vehicles, excluding those typically used for commercial purposes, rose 1.7% to 2.1 million units in March from a year earlier.

Weaker sales-tax incentive have put pressure on demand this year and are expected to slow down demand even more next year. Buyers of cars with engines up to 1.6 liters paid a 5% purchase tax last year, but they are now paying a 7.5% rate. Buyers are still finding incentives to rush on buying cars this year since the rate will increase to 10% in 2018.

Palladium Nears Resistance Levels

Palladium nears long-term resistance levels. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com data

Palladium prices have risen steadily since the beginning of 2016, but the metal is now trading at historically high levels, which could play against this rally. Historically, palladium has peaked in the range of $850-$900. Prices closed last week at $827.

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This doesn’t mean that prices will necessarily peak at these levels again, but we suspect that the closer prices get to those levels, the stronger the fundamentals will need to be to lure investors to chase prices higher.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

Palladium’s outlook continues to look good, but a potential slowdown in global auto sales and stiff price resistance near $850-$900 could put a ceiling to palladium’s rally this year.

Port Talbot steel plant

Source: Adobe Stock/Petert2

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel saw its market value reduced by 27% from investors following a surprising first quarter loss.

According to a recent report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, U.S. Steel also announced plans to spend more than $1 billion in upgrades to plants in Mon Valley and beyond.

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“This is not a quarter-to-quarter play,” David Burritt, president and chief operating officer, told investors, concerning investment in the mills. “We’re in this for the long haul. It takes more than a little bit of courage to take this action right now.”

Analysts are encouraged by the investment, but they are also concerned the time frame for the project will prevent U.S. Steel from taking advantage of the surging demand in steel that many are expecting on the heels of President Donald Trump’s promises to support the steel industry.

Chinese Demand for Steel Growing?

Our own Raul de Frutos recently wrote about the current industrial metals bull market and whether or not he still sees an upside. Pertaining to steel specifically, de Frutos wrote that China’s government recently announced plans to build a new urban metropolis from the ground up, which would significantly boost the demand for steel and other metals.

De Frutos wrote: “This growth translates into solid demand for industrial metals at the same time as China applies stricter anti-pollution rules and supply-side reforms designed to cut capacity in energy-intensive sectors like steel and aluminum. Overall, while we continue to see strength in Chinese markets, we are not ready to call peak in this industrial metals bull market.”

How will steel 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:

First, some good news. Congress approved a week-long spending measure today, narrowly preventing a government shutdown from occurring tomorrow, which also happens to be President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office. Phew.

And talking about nail-biters, this week kicked off with the first round of French presidential elections. Advancing to the May 7 runoff are independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, who had come out on top with 23.75% of the votes, and controversial far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who won 21.53%.

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The results “may not have matched Britain’s Brexit referendum of last year or the United States of America’s presidential election of Donald Trump in upsetting the pollsters,” wrote MetalMiner co-founder Stuart Burns, “but it does say a lot about the mind set of French voters all the same.”

Over in the U.S., this week the Trump administration announced plans to slash individual and business income tax rates. The proposal will have businesses, big or small, paying 15% (the current corporate tax is 35%). As for a border adjustment tax on imports, the latest news reports are saying Trump has abandoned the idea. This past week, Jeff Yoders spoke with Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners on this very topic of a BAT.

“AFP sees the BAT as very similar to a VAT and [AFP thinks] that its overall impact would be similar,” Yoders wrote. “I, myself, have been known to a be a VAT conscientious objector, as well. I do think, though, that the idea of a BAT, while it certainly has VAT similarities, is intriguing in that it uses the corporate income tax to encourage manufacturing in the U.S.”

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To send off our (erstwhile) colleague Jeff Yoders, let’s end this Week-in-Review with another article from him. This week, he published the final part of an interview with Dean A. Pinkert, former International Trade Commission vice chair, on issues facing metals producers and manufacturers; the Trump administration; and tax policy. Don’t miss it!

Nickel prices reached a 10-month low this week due in part to concern over demand from China, a top consumer of the metal.

According to a report from Reuters, these concerns were supported by Chinese trade data, indicating falling imports on the alloying material used to make stainless steel.

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!

Nickel traded on the London Metal Exchange ended Wednesday at $9,225 per metric ton, its lowest mark since June of last year.

John Meyer, SP Angel analyst, told the news source he anticipates nickel to be supported by concern over supplies of ore from the Philippines, which recently announced the ordered closure of more than half its mines in order to protect water sources.

“There is still a lot of stock for the market to burn,” Meyer told Reuters.

Nickel Trailing Other Industrial Metals

Our own Raul de Frutos wrote earlier this month of the downward pressure seen on nickel prices during Q1, which is in stark contrast to other industrial metals that have rallied during that same time.

Wrote de Frutos: “Nickel prices are struggling to make headway this year. Nickel’s supply narrative is rather complex and it’s exposed to significant changes depending on what policy makers in Indonesia and The Philippines do next. On the other hand, stainless buyers should continue to monitor their price risk exposure. Investors’ sentiment on industrial metals remains bullish and that could still trigger unexpected prices swings on the upside.”

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:

Industrial metals have been on a tear since we called a bull market just about a year ago. However, we have recently witnessed some price weakness over the past couple of months.

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Commodities like industrial metals are cyclical assets which tend to run in the same direction for long periods of time. The key is to recognize the peaks and valleys of the cycle to time your purchases accordingly. 

The industrial metals ETF: peak or pause? Source: MetalMiner analysis of @stockcharts.com data.

The ongoing bull market in industrial metals has run for over a year and while some metals are experiencing some setbacks, it’s a good time to bring up the question: Are we nearing a peak or this is just a pause before prices break on the upside?

To answer this question, let’s look at what the main macro drivers are telling us:

China: Strong Indicators

As we all know, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of industrial metals. Any changes on China’s supply and demand equation can have a huge impact on the price of metals. The performance of Chinese stock markets are a great gauge of investors’ sentiment on China’s economy. Since China became a major economy, we’ve seen a strong correlation between Chinese markets and metal prices.

Chinese stock market etf trading near highs. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @stockcharts.com data.

Price momentum in Chinese markets has indeed picked up this year, tradin near a two year-high. The latest economic indicators continue to increase investors’ confidence in China.

China’s GDP came at 6.9% in the first quarter, the fastest pace in almost two years, up from a 6.8% growth in the previous quarter and putting the country well ahead of its goal of 6.5% annual GDP. Chinese investment in buildings, factories and other fixed assets rose 9.2% for the first quarter while construction starts surged by 11.6%. If that’s not enough, in April, China’s government announced plans to build a new megacity, which will increase the demand for steel and other industrial metals.

This growth translates into solid demand for industrial metals at the same time that China applies stricter anti-pollution rules and supply-side reforms designed to cut capacity in energy-intensive sectors like steel and aluminum. Overall, while we continue to see strength in Chinese markets, we are not ready to call peak in this industrial metals bull market.

US Dollar Falls to 5-Month Low

Base metals are commodities and, as such, move in opposite directions to the dollar. Over the past 20 years, every major bottom in commodities have coincided with a major peak in the U.S. dollar and vice versa. For a continuation of a bull market in industrial metals we should see weakness in the dollar. This year we have seen that.

The U.S. dollar index falls to a 5-month-low. Source: MetalMiner analysis of @stockcharts.com data.

According to the Wall Street Journal, on Monday, “the dollar fell to a five-month low due to a surge in the euro after the first round of the French presidential election eased concerns about the future of the European currency.” The notion is that the Euro would likely strengthen if Macron wins the election.

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If centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron gets elected in the final round (May 7), markets might start to focus on a positive European economic picture and its higher growth relative to the U.S. That could potentially devalue the dollar against the euro, a bullish development for industrial metal prices.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

Industrial buyers need to watch closely for signs of a market top. For now, the recent price weakness in industrial metals seems normal in the context of a bull market and key indicators such as China and the dollar favor a continuation of this uptrend. Industrial buyers should continue to manage their commodity price risk exposure until we see real signs of a market peak.

France’s first round presidential run off may not have matched Britain’s Brexit referendum of last year or the United States of America’s presidential election of Donald Trump in upsetting the pollsters, but it does say a lot about the mind set of French voters all the same.

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

Novice centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and Far Right leader Marine Le Pen advanced to the second round presidential run-off on Sunday and in the process achieved a historic wipe out of the two principal political parties that have traded power in France since World War II.

Neither Benoit Hamon of the Socialists, whose popularity had dwindled to single figures under the bungling of outgoing president Francois Hollande, nor the centre-right candidate — Francois Fillon, a former front runner — came close to challenging the two eventual victors. France has clearly had enough of the established order and much like Britain almost exactly 20 years ago cho0sing a young and charismatic Tony Blair,  the new favorite Macron is young, dynamic, charismatic and unquestionably clever. Read more

The MetalMiner analyst team alerted subscribers and trialers last week to significant movement on the zinc front. Prices for the non-ferrous metal have pulled back over the past several weeks, and are now trading near key support levels.

Wrote our own Raul de Frutos: “The price weakness seems to come from longs exiting their positions rather than shorts coming to the market. This suggests that sentiment hasn’t shifted to bearish for now. This could be a good opportunity to time purchases (3-5 months’ worth of demand) while prices trade near $2,500/mt.”

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!

While many may panic and see this price decline as the end of zinc’s bull run, de Frutos sees this movement as an ideal opportunity to make purchases at an attractive price.

de Frutos added: “After doubling in price since the beginning of 2016, prices are now struggling in the $3,000 per metric ton level. However, the price weakness seems to come from long position buyers exiting those positions rather than shorts coming to the market. This suggests that sentiment hasn’t shifted to bearish for now. At the same time, we see strong support near $2,500/mt, which could provide a good opportunity to time purchases.”

How will zinc 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:

Lead ore. Source: Adobestock.

Lead prices, along with tin, lost some ground on the non-ferrous metals market on April 18, due in part to stockists selling as the result of subdued demand in the user industries.

According to a report from the Business Standard, lead fell slightly lower than tin with copper dropping by an even smaller margin.

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!

Elsewhere in the realm of non-ferrous metals, lead’s sister metal zinc has seen its prices fall off sharply over the past several weeks.

Our own Raul de Frutos warns that now is the time to buy, although it’s important not to panic and view this as the end of zinc’s bull run. In fact, this is nothing more than a great opportunity to purchase the metal at an attractive price.

de Frutos wrote: “After doubling in price since the beginning of 2016, prices are now struggling in the $3,000 per metric ton level. However, the price weakness seems to come from long position buyers exiting those positions rather than shorts coming to the market. This suggests that sentiment hasn’t shifted to bearish for now. At the same time, we see strong support near $2,500/mt, which could provide a good opportunity to time purchases.”

Lead Price Outlook for 2017

How will lead 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: