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Articles on: Metal Prices
hot rolled steel

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, which this week includes coverage of steel capacity utilization, the latest OPEC ministerial meeting and much more.

Overall, most base metals seem to be retracing from a late February peak. LME copper and aluminum have both been declining since late February.

The tin price’s dive has been more stark. LME three-month tin has dropped over 13% since Feb. 25. However, in the long term, the outlook for tin remains promising, particularly given its application in electronics.

The MetalMiner team will be presenting a commodity forecast for copper, aluminum, stainless and carbon steel on Wednesday, March 24, at 10:00 a.m. CDT: 

Week of March 1-5 (steel capacity, oil prices and more)

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leszekglasner/Adobe Stock

Up to this week, the nickel bull story had been roaring along.

Talk of metal shortages and runaway electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid battery demand have supported that story.

But one announcement has seen that bull run hit a brick wall.

Grab your coffee and hear MetalMiner’s latest forecast for aluminum, copper, stainless and carbon steel on Wednesday, March 24, at 10:00 a.m. CDT:

Nickel bull story slows

News that China’s Tsingshan Holding Group has signed a one-year contract to supply nickel matte to Huayou Cobalt Co and CNGR Advanced Material Co, on March 3 prompted a sharp sell-off.

Under the agreement, Tsingshan will supply 60,000 tonnes of nickel matte to Huayou and 40,000 tonnes a year to CNGR, starting from October 2021. Tsingshan is China’s largest producer of stainless steel.

Just this morning, news sources like MetalBulletin were still promoting the bull narrative, saying nickel premiums continue to rise in China, while ore prices set another record high (even as the European cut cathode premium rises a further 5%).

But almost simultaneously, Reuters reported hot-off-the-press details of the Tsingshan deal and a sharp sell-off ensued. The post noted nickel fell 8.5% to $15,945 per metric ton on the LME for the biggest intraday loss since 2016. Shanghai prices fell by the most in nine months. The SHFE June nickel price ended 6% lower at RMB 130,510 ($20,181) per ton, according to Reuters.

Investment and the supply outlook

The Economic Times posted further details, reporting Tsingshan plans to expand investments in Indonesia. Tsingshan plans for its nickel equivalent output to reach 600,000 metric tons this year. Meanwhile, it has a target of 850,000 tons in 2021 and 1.1 million tons by 2023.

Nickel’s narrative has largely been predicated on a shortage of battery-grade metal driven by EV demand.

However, Tsingshan’s supply contract and capacity announcements suggest there will be sufficient supply. As a result, the nickel market reflected a sharp rethink of the deficit view.

Demand undoubtedly remains robust for nickel. Its medium- to longer-term outlook remains positive on the back of stainless and battery demand.

Indonesia’s efforts are finally paying off. The country is ramping up refined metal output, albeit under Chinese control. As a result, output of battery and refined grades of nickel is increasing. Meanwhile output of lower grade nickel pig iron is declining.

Nevertheless, the world does not seem quite as short of nickel today as it did yesterday.

Do you know the five best practices of sourcing metals including stainless steel?

Department of Commerce building

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

This morning in metals news: the Department of Commerce said imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from 18 countries are being dumped and benefiting from subsidies; Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard this week commented on the US’s economic outlook; and the copper price has retraced somewhat over the last week.

DOC makes common alloy aluminum sheet ruling

The Department of Commerce ruled that common alloy aluminum sheet imports from 18 countries benefited from either dumping or countervailable subsidization.

The affirmative final dumping determination related to imports from: Bahrain, Brazil, Croatia, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Oman, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey.

Meanwhile, the countervailing subsidy investigation referred to common alloy aluminum sheet imports from Bahrain, India and Turkey.

In 2019, Germany sent the most common alloy aluminum sheet, by value, to the US, at $286.6 million.

Don’t miss the MetalMiner analyst team on March 24 at 10:00 a.m. CDT for a 30-minute metals market forecast and strategies to deploy in falling markets:

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hard hat sitting on US banknotes

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The Construction Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose by 3.2% this month, as January 2021 construction spending picked up.

March 2021 Construction MMI chart

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Construction spending

US construction spending in January reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,521.5 billion, the Census Bureau reported this week.

The January rate marked an increase of 1.7% from the previous month. Furthermore, the January rate rose 5.8% compared with January 2020.

Private construction rose 1.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,160.0 billion. Within private construction, residential construction rose 2.5% to $713.0 billion in January. Nonresidential construction ticked up by 0.4% to $447.0 billion.

Meanwhile, US public construction spending rose 1.7% to $361.5 billion. Educational construction dipped 0.1% t0 $89.9 billion. Highway construction rose 5.8% to $107.8 billion.

ABI moves up but remains low

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), released monthly by the American Institute of Architects, reached a January reading of 44.9.

The January reading marked an increase from 42.3 the previous month. However, any reading less than 50 indicates a contraction in billings.

Meanwhile, the design contracts index moved up from 47.0 to 48.8.

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March 2021 MMO cover pageThis morning in metals news: the March 2021 Monthly Metal Outlook (MMO) report is out; meanwhile, annual natural gas production declined in 2020; and, finally, pending home sales declined in January.

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March 2021 MMO report

Every first of the month, MetalMiner publishes its Monthly Metal Outlook forecast report, available only to subscribers.

The report includes buying strategies for 10 key metals: aluminum, copper, zinc, tin, lead, stainless/nickel, HRC, HDG, CRC and plate.

For more information about the monthly report and how to subscribe, visit the MMO landing page.

Natural gas output down

Natural gas production fell 1% in 2020, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

“U.S. natural gas production—as measured by gross withdrawals—averaged 111.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2020, down 0.9 billion Bcf/d from 2019 as result of a decline in drilling activity related to low natural gas and oil prices in 2020,” the EIA reported.

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US steel mills churned out metal at a steel capacity utilization rate of 77.2% for the week ending Feb. 27, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

See why technical analysis is a superior forecasting methodology over fundamental analysis and why it matters for your steel buy.

Steel capacity utilization gains

Last week’s rate marked a slight increase from the previous week, when steel capacity utilization reached 77.0%.

Production last week reached 1.75 million net tons.

The production total marked a 7.0% decrease from the same period in the previous year. Furthermore, capacity utilization during the same period in 2020 reached 81.3%.

In addition, production for the week ending Feb. 27, 2021, increased 0.2% from the previous week. Production during the week ending Feb. 20, 2021, reached 1.745 million net tons at a steel capacity utilization rate of 77.0%.

Meanwhile, adjusted year-to-date production through Feb. 27, 2021, totaled 14.36 million net tons at a capacity utilization rate of 76.5%. Output is down 8.4% year over year.

At the same point last year, steel capacity utilization had reached 81.9%.

By region, production during the week ending Feb. 27, 2021, totaled:

  • Northeast: 155,000 net tons
  • Great Lakes: 624,000 net tons
  • Midwest: 181,000 net tons
  • Southern: 715,000 net tons
  • Western: 74,000 net tons

Steel prices

Steel prices continue to rise in the US, as buyers struggle to secure supply (even despite slowly gaining capacity utilization rates).

US hot rolled coil closed Monday at $1,204 per short ton, or up 9.65% from a month ago.

Meanwhile, US cold rolled coil rose 8.87% to $1,375 per short ton.

US hot dipped galvanized is up 7.12% to $1,475 per short ton.

Plate is up 9.77% to $1,079 per short ton.

Volatility is the name of the game. Do you have a steel buying strategy that can handle the ups and downs?

E.U. flag

Andrey Kuzmin/Adobe Stack

There is not a lot of chatter in the press about this yet, but speak to producers and consumers and you will hear plenty of complaints about the European aluminum market.

Both flat rolled and extruded products are facing serious supply issues. However, whether they will be short-lived or prove more persistent is not yet clear.

Are you under pressure to generate aluminum cost savings? Make sure you are following these five best practices

European aluminum market challenges

On flat rolled, manufacturing has not bounced back with the vengeance some as some hoped. However, it has recovered quite strongly in some sectors. Automakers and consumer durables have sought to catch up from the first half of last year, which saw a collapse in demand and output.

Automotive manufacturers, in particular, are struggling to get enough material. This comes despite some car output slowing because of a lack of semiconductors. Hard alloy 5000 series sheet deliveries are out to July-August production at some plants. Extended lead times and rising LME prices — now above $2,200 per metric ton this week — are encouraging distributors to overorder. In short, this is further exacerbating the problem.

Extrusion confusion

If anything, the position with extrusions is even worse.

The loss or denial of Chinese supply as a result of countervailing duties has, as intended, pushed demand onto domestic suppliers. There appears to be a shortage of metal right from the primary ingot end of the supply chain.

Billet casters are complaining they can’t get enough ingot. As a result, they are putting extrusion clients on allocation or, at a minimum, advising they will be able to meet their contractual quantities but no more.

In conversations with MetalMiner, extrusion mills have advised they are looking outside of Europe for billet supplies. Some have said they are looking to the Middle East and even Asia.

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list of commodities prices, including copper price, silver price, oil price and gold price

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including coverage of the copper price, how the Biden administration will handle the former Trump administration’s metals tariffs and much more.

The MetalMiner Best Practice Library offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to help buyers stay on top of metals markets and buying strategies.

Week of Feb. 22-26 (copper price, aluminum tariff and much more)

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earnings sign

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This morning in metals news: Arconic reported its fourth quarter and full-year 2020 financial results; meanwhile, the Census Bureau reported steel import totals; and, finally, hot rolled coil steel prices continue to rise.

Arconic reports Q4, 2020 financial results

Pittsburgh-based Arconic reported Q4 2020 revenues of $1.5 billion, up 3% from the previous quarter. However, the Q4 total marked a year-over-year decline of 14%.

Weaker aerospace volumes contributed to the decline, the manufacturer said. Growth in the industrial and packaging end markets partially offset the decline.

For the full year, revenues of $5.7 billion marked a 22% year-over-year decline.

The company attributed the slide to COVID-19 impacts and production declines due to delays associated with the Boeing 737 MAX.

“Our fourth quarter results demonstrate a steady climb in revenue since the onset of the pandemic as several indicators point to growing customer demand in many of the markets we serve, particularly in the ground transportation and industrial sectors,” Arconic CEO Tim Myers said.

The MetalMiner Best Practice Library offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to help buyers stay on top of metals markets and buying strategies.

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copper mine

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The copper price has resumed its rise this month after taking a brief pause in January.

Meanwhile, on the supply side, tightening began last year and could exacerbate in the year ahead. Strong demand from China, lack of new mine investment and enthusiasm about copper’s role in the renewables revolution are all contributing to the metal’s bullish run.

Copper’s outlook is strong, MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns explained earlier this week. However, it would not be a surprise to see short-term retrenchment.

“So, for investors to take profits and the copper price to fall back should not come as too much of a surprise after such a strong rise in prices,” he wrote.

“Furthermore, it does not undermine the longer-term bull narrative for the metal. It does suggest, however, copper consumers think carefully before fixing all their requirements for the year at today’s price.”

The MetalMiner Best Practice Library offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to help buyers stay on top of metals markets and buying strategies.

Global copper mine production down 0.2%

Mine output — or lack thereof — is contributing to the copper price hot streak.

According to data from the International Copper Study Group, global copper mine production fell by 0.2% year over year during the first 11 months of 2020. The reduction narrowed as the year progressed after a 3.5% aggregate decline in April and May.

Furthermore, the global copper market recorded an apparent deficit of 590,000 metric tons.

By country, second-largest copper producer Peru has recovered after COVID-19 impacts earlier in 2020. Peru’s copper mine output reached its highest levels last year in October and November.

Meanwhile, top producer Chile saw a decline in output from July-November. However, output through the first 11 months of the year matched that of the first 11 months of 2019.

Indonesian output rose by 36%. Output in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Panama also increased.

Refined copper production picks up

On the other hand, refined copper production rose by 1.8% during the first 11 months of 2020.

Chile’s electrolytic refined output picked up by 28%. Meanwhile, Indian refined output fell by 19%.

Copper price surge

After a sideways January, the copper price has picked up again in recent weeks.

The LME three-month price closed Tuesday at $9,126 per metric ton. The copper price is by more than 14% over the last month.

The ICSG noted the average LME cash price for January reached $7,970.50 per metric ton, or up 9.8% from the December 2020 average.

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