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Aluminum Prices

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Carbon Steel Prices

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Nickel Alloy Prices

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Stainless Steel Prices

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Titanium Prices

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Articles on: Metal Prices

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was here on MetalMiner:

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  • Rio Tinto’s massive Dunkerque aluminum smelter is possibly set to change hands — to a familiar buyer, our Stuart Burns writes.
  • A tight nickel market has seen prices of the metal soar in recent weeks.
  • India’s state-owned National Aluminum Company is thinking big with a little more revenue in the bank for projects.
  • In case you missed it, we released our January Monthly Metals Index (MMI) Report earlier this week.
  • China is often the focal point in U.S. discussions of potential trade remedies vis-a-vis metals imports — but should that be the case?
  • Fitch recently warned of upcoming rate rises.
  • Burns again touched on that recent superstar, zinc — how much higher can it go? For context, LME primary cash zinc hovered around $2,723/metric around this time last January, according to MetalMiner IndX data — meanwhile, yesterday the metal hit $3,444/mt.
  • The U.S. International Trade Commission voted last week to continue the anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations of common alloy aluminum sheet from China. As can often be the case, reactions to this are mixed within the domestic industry.
  • Sticking on the trade case front, the U.S. Department of Commerce made a preliminary ruling on steel flanges from India and China.
  • Steel has gotten off to a strong start this calendar year, our Irene Martinez Canorea writes.

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Steel price momentum appears significantly stronger with the start of the year. Steel price momentum shifted in December, showing stronger upward movement.

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Despite the momentum, MetalMiner remains cautious about steel prices.

U.S. HRC and CRC prices. Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(™)

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Section 232 outcome might also add some support to steel prices this month and until the president makes a final decision. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross released the report to President Trump on Jan. 11. The president has 90 days as of receipt of the report to take action. The contents of the report have not been divulged.

Plate Prices Move Up

Domestic plate prices increased again this week. Prices increased at the very end of 2017; plate momentum seems to have recovered from its previous downtrend.

Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(™)

Plate prices tend to abruptly change price direction. Will this new set of prices signal a continuous uptrend movement for the steel industry? Steel price performance in Q1 will provide buying organizations with clues and road signals.

What About Chinese Steel Prices?

Chinese steel prices, however, currently trade lower than they did in December.

Contrary to U.S. steel prices, Chinese steel prices have held in an uptrend longer than U.S. steel prices. Therefore, we would expect some sideways movements.

Chinese capacity closures might offer additional support to steel prices this year. However, the Chinese government will maintain the current steel output and ensure steel quality meets the required standards.

Last week, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology stated that China will have stricter rules to build new steel production capacity. Just up to one ton of new capacity will be built for each 1.25 tons of old capacity closed in environmentally sensitive regions. This measure will start this year, which may add support to steel prices.

MetalMiner’s Annual Outlook provides 2018 buying strategies for carbon steel

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

As domestic steel price dynamics showed strong upward momentum this month, buying organizations may want to closely understand price movements to decide when to buy some volume. Despite slowing Chinese momentum from the previous quarter, prices still remain strong. Buying organizations can expect some additional upward price movement this month.

For specific industrial buying strategies, take a free trial now to our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook. In addition, our February Monthly Outlook will include a detailed analysis of the Section 232 outcome.

Last week, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) voted to continue the AD and CVD investigations into common alloy aluminum sheet from China — a decision met with favor by some and concern by others within domestic industry.

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Unlike most such cases, the Department of Commerce self-initated the investigations, marking the first time it had done so since 1991.

Heidi Brock, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association, lauded the decision to continue the investigations.

“The Aluminum Association and its members are encouraged by today’s unanimous preliminary finding by the U.S. International Trade Commission that imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from China are a cause of injury to the domestic industry and their workers,” Brock said in a release. “U.S. companies that make common alloy aluminum sheet have suffered extensive injury thanks to unfairly traded imports from China for many years. Our members are participating in the trade cases initiated by the Department of Commerce to return fair pricing to the U.S. market, and to allow the U.S. industry to make needed investments to further strengthen its competitiveness.”

Not everyone is happy about the decision, however.

Read more

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Three-month zinc on the London Metal Exchange was up 1.3% at $3,426 a metric ton in official midday trading on Monday, having earlier touched a peak of $3,440 a ton — its highest since August 2007, Reuters reports.

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Like all base metals, zinc was been driven higher by a weak dollar — but that is far from the only driver pushing it to outperform all other base metals so far this year.

Inventories Continue to Fall

LME zinc inventories have fallen for 13 consecutive weeks to their lowest since October 2008. There was a further drop of 10,000 tons to 116,675 tons just late last week.

Meanwhile, Shanghai stocks have declined more than half over the past year, Reuters says, as supply constraints persist. As a result, Treatment and Refining (TC/RC) charges for concentrates and refined metal have fallen as refiners fight for cargoes to process.

A Market in Deficit

The reason physical metal is in short supply is no secret.

The market is in deficit, by 504,000 tons during January to October 2017, compared with a deficit of 202,000 tons recorded in the whole of the previous year, the World Bureau of Metal Statistics reports. Buyers had hoped 500,000 tons of capacity at Glencore’s Lady Loretta mine in Australia would be back onstream by now, having been closed due to low prices in 2015. Although the company promised to restart production in the first half of 2018, so far there have been no deliveries.

Higher prices have encouraged tailings at the previously closed Century mine in Australia to be opened up for processing; but again, significant deliveries are still pending.

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Zinc Could Rise Even More

Meanwhile, speculative positions have grown, betting on further price rises.

That is not without some basis, as robust demand has been constrained by tight supply and with Chinese smelters hit by Beijing’s environmental campaign to close energy-intensive manufacturing activities during the winter heating season. Reuters quotes ING analyst Warren Patterson, who said if economic and manufacturing data remain strong, there is potential for further upside.

It’s that time — our latest Monthly Metals Index (MMI) report is in, covering the final month of 2017.

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So, before we move onto 2018 for good, let’s take one last look at our newest MMI report and recap some of the highlights:

    • Our January MMI saw seven of 10 sub-indexes move upward, with two holding flat and one dropping (the Construction MMI fell by one point).
    • The biggest winner of the month was the Stainless Steel MMI, which rose 9.2%. Skyrocketing LME nickel prices backed the jump. After hovering around $10,600/metric ton in October, nickel jumped near $13,000/mt last month, and continued to climb in the early days of 2018.
    • The Copper and Aluminum MMIs also went up, by 3.5% and 3.2%, respectively.
    • In the Global Precious MMI, palladium continues to outperform platinum, continuing a run that has bucked historical trends vis-a-vis the two platinum-group metals.
    • The GOES MMI also had a good month, picking up seven points via a 3.8% increase. GOES typically does not follow the price patterns of other forms of steel, but it did this past month.

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You can read about all of the aforementioned — and much more — by downloading the January MMI report below.

LME nickel prices hit $13,200 per ton last Wednesday, the highest level since June 2015 before investors took profits and the price fell back a touch to $12,870 per metric ton.

Prices were led higher by the ShFE, where stock have fallen to 48,920 tons from over 90,000 tons just a year ago — and consumers are worried about a supply squeeze, Reuters reports.

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The Philippines’ ongoing environmental campaign has perpetuated the closure of four key nickel mines in the Zimbales region, according to Wilfredo Moncano, the director or the Philippine mines and geosciences bureau. Moncano said “no extraction, no new mining activities, what’s only allowed is hauling up ores for their stockpiles,” according to Reuters.

The supply squeeze story has been exacerbated by news that Sumitomo Corporation has suspended output from its mine in Madagascar following a cyclone.  Not surprisingly, investment funds are at increased net long positions on the NME and SHFE, with LME positions doubling from early November. LME nickel stocks are still substantial at 368,292 tons, but are down from levels above 470,000 tons in June 2015; however, they’re at double the levels seen in May 2013.

Although nickel prices have pulled back on profit-taking, many are still betting the price could move higher as the market is in deficit. Any supply-side disruption is seen as an opportunity to squeeze supply in the face of continued robust demand.

Nickel supply, however, has picked up.

Current short-term issues accepted, according to Fast Markets, Indonesia had awarded quotas for the export of over 20 million tons of nickel ore after its export ban was relaxed early last year. Only a small portion of this, however, has been shipped. The bulk of 2017 quotas are still to be exported.

The incentive for both miners and authorities is to resolve the current environmental stumbling blocks. Exports are expected to pick up. There should also be nickel pig iron smelters being established in Indonesia in 2018, creating more plentiful NPI availability in the market.

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Under the circumstances, the recent $13,200 price spike may, if not prove to be a peak, at least come to be in the upper range of what will remain a volatile market until supply concerns ease.

The U.S. Department of Commerce. qingwa/Adobe Stock

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a quick look back at the week that was here on MetalMiner:

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  • This week we wrapped up the latest round of posts for our January Monthly Metals Index (MMI) — check out this week’s posts on the following:
  • Oil and gas exploration is a topic that has both passionate supporters and detractors. President Trump’s recent proposal to open up new areas for drilling, not surprisingly, has both of those, as our Stuart Burns wrote earlier this week.
  • Sticking on the subject of oil, Burns surveyed the factors behind crude oil’s continuing rise in price. Political turmoil is one factor, among others, contributing to the increase.
  • The long wait is over … Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has sent President Trump his Section 232 steel report (the statutory deadline was Jan. 15). Trump now has 90 days to decide what to do. A similar announcement for the Section 232 aluminum probe — which was launched last April, one week after the steel probe — should also be coming soon.

gui yong nian/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, U.S. steel imports rose significantly in 2017, Shanghai nickel hits a 2-month high and the Peruvian government is considering a $2.4 billion railway project in light of rising copper output.

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Steel Imports Up by 15.5%; 2017 Market Share Hits 27%

According to Steel Import Monitoring Analysis (SIMA) data reported by AISI, total and finished steel imports in the U.S. were 38,149,000 net tons (NT) and 29,534,000 NT, up 15.5% and 12.1%, respectively, from 2016.

The estimated import market share for December was 22%, according to the SIMA data, and 27% for 2017.

Shanghai Nickel Rises Amid Concerns About Output

According to a Reuters report, Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) nickel rose by as much as 1% amid concerns about output levels and production outages.

As of Jan. 5, deliverable ShFE nickel warehouse stocks are approximately 54% of what they were last year (48,920 tons, down from 90,000 last year).

Peru Eyes Estimated $2.4 Billion Railway Project

With copper output on the rise, Peru is considering an ambitious railway project to facilitate the transport of the metal.

According to Reuters, the Peruvian government is evaluating a $2.4 billion railway project for transporting minerals from an Andean region rich in copper to the Pacific coast.

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The proposed railway would start in the highland region of Apurimac and stretch 373 miles to the coast, carrying concentrates from Chinese-owned MMG Ltd’s Las Bambas mine and other copper and iron projects, according to Deputy Mines Minister Ricardo Labo said.

The Renewable Monthly Metals Index (MMI) picked up a point for our January reading, rising from 78 to 79 (a 1.3% jump).

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Several of the heavier hitters in this basket of metals posted price increases this past month.

U.S. steel plate rose 4.0% and U.S. grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES) coil rose 3.8%. Korean steel plate also increased, rising by a whopping 8.9% for the recent monthly window.

Chinese silicon and cobalt cathodes also posted notable price jumps. Meanwhile, Chinese steel plate fell slightly, while Japanese steel plate posted a small price jump.

Continuation of Steel Plate Tariffs on the Table

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Merrillville, Indiana) testified before the International Trade Commission recently on the subject of extending 18-year-old duties on cut-to-length carbon-quality steel plate from India, Indonesia and South Korea, the Northwest Indiana Times reported.

Northwest Indiana, where Merrillville sits, is home to significant domestic steel industry activity, including by ArcelorMittal, which produces steel plate at its Burns Harbor Plate Mill — located in Gary, Indiana — the paper reported.

“As a representative and resident of Northwest Indiana, I am acutely aware of the challenges facing the American steel industry due to the onslaught of illegal steel imports,” the Times quoted Visclosky as saying during testimony at a hearing in Washington, D.C. “The ArcelorMittal facility at Burns Harbor in Northwest Indiana makes cut-to-length carbon-quality steel plate, and every one of those dedicated workers deserve to be able to continue to fairly compete and make the best steel to the best of their ability in our global economy.”

Of course, the issue is one of many metals-related trade issues before U.S. trade bodies (the most headline-grabbing being the Section 232 probes into steel and aluminum imports, for which a ruling is expected this month).

Like the Section 232 probes, which seek to determine whether those imports negatively impact the country’s national security, Visclosky also cited national security concerns vis-a-vis steel plate imports.

“It is essential for both our national defense and our national economy, and we cannot afford to threaten our production capabilities,” the paper quoted Visnosky as saying.

GOES Gets a Boost

As reported by our Lisa Reisman yesterday, grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES) got a boost this past month.

GOES prices, as Reisman noted, usually don’t move in tandem with other forms of steel — but it didn’t play out that way in December.

Import levels, however, are something to monitor going forward.

“In addition to prices moving in a similar direction, import levels also followed similar patterns, although GOES imports showed a dramatically higher increase whereas finished steel imports grew by 14.5% on an annualized basis according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI),” Reisman added.

While China is often the subject of much discussion regarding a flood of imports into the U.S., when it comes to GOES, Japan is actually the leader in exports to the U.S.

Source: International Trade Administration and MetalMiner analysis

Japan owns about two-thirds of the U.S. GOES import market share, rising significantly despite a drop in overall finished steel sent to the U.S.

The explanation for that disparity?

“Increased domestic efficiency standards have led to the development of higher performance electrical steels (HB), which have taken share away from the more conventional grades produced by the sole U.S. producer,” Reisman wrote. “With no U.S. producer of these grades, the market has become more reliant on exports from Japan.”

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The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) held flat for the month, posting a value of 18 for our January reading. 

Reflecting the lack of movement in the MMI value, the basket of metals posted modest price fluctuations.

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Chinese yttrium rose 1.9%, while terbium oxide dropped 0.8%. Neodymium oxide fell 1.3% on the month.

Australian Miner Receives State’s EPA Approval

A $900 million Australian miner received approval from the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), reported.

According to the report, Arafura Resources received approval on Friday after a two-year process. The EPA had been considering the environmental impacts of the Nolans rare earths project, the website reported, concluding that those risks at the site could be managed.

According to the report, Arafura estimates the project would create an investment of about $900 million in central Australia.

Global Market to Reach $20 Billion by 2024

The global rare earths market is projected to hit a value of $20 billion by 2024, according to a research report by Global Market Insights, Inc.

“Growing demand for magnets in automobiles, and energy generation will majorly contribute to the growth of global rare earth metals market over the forecast period,” the Globe Newswire release states. “The demand for rare earth magnets is majorly increasing by their consumption in electric and hybrid vehicles, and wind turbines. Increasing focus on utilizing clean and renewable energy is giving a substantial pressure on the electricity providers, to generate energy through renewable sources, which in turn will show a positive impact on the growth of this market.”

Not surprisingly given China’s overwhelming dominance of the rare earths markets, prices will continue to fluctuate somewhat wildly based on Chinese supply.

As for individual metals, neodymium will continue on in its place at or near the top of the rare-earths heap.

“By revenue, neodymium had the highest market share in 2016, with a market share of over 30%,” the release states. “It will dominate the global rare earth metals market till the end of projected period. Neodymium market will grow at a CAGR of 8.2% from 2017 to 2024.”

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