Articles in Category: Non-ferrous Metals

This morning in metals news: South Korean steelmaker POSCO reported its strongest operating profit in Q2 since Q3 2010; the United States International Trade Commission made a determination regarding steel wire mesh from Mexico; and, lastly, tin prices have been soaring.

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POSCO records strong Q2

POSCO logo

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South Korean steelmaker POSCO reported its strongest operating profit since 2010 in the second quarter of this year.

The steelmaker reported Q2 2020 operating profit of 168 billion KRW ($145.6 million), which jumped to 2,201 billion KRW ($1.9 billion) in Q2 2021.

Crude steel production reached 9.45 million tons in Q2 at a capacity utilization rate of 93.2%. Meanwhile, the steelmaker tallied 9.56 million tons in Q1 at a rate of 95.3%.

However, the Q2 rate marked a sizeable jump from the second quarter of 2020, when output reached 7.79 million tons at rate of 77.0%.

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As if aluminum buyers didn’t have enough to contend with, including long mill lead times and rising conversion premiums, they are also dealing with a rising Midwest premium.

Furthermore, Russia’s move to impose a 15% export tax on unwrought aluminum has had a profound impact on the Midwest delivery premium.

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Midwest premium continues to soar

aluminum ingot stacked for export

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A recent Reuters article reports that the CME Midwest premium has jumped to a record high of $660 per ton ($0.30/lb). As a result, product manufacturers and their end users are facing an all-in price for unwrought raw material in excess of $3,000 per metric ton, even before conversion to product premiums are added in.

But the post goes on to explain that Russia’s export tax is not the sole reason for seriously elevated physical delivery premiums.

Over the last few years, the shift in exchange and off-market global inventory has been from North American and European markets toward Asia.

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This morning in metals news: copper prices have stabilized over the last month; U.S. natural gas prices have surged to their highest level since 2014; and, lastly, Cleveland-Cliffs released its second-quarter results.

Receive the latest short-term and long-term outlook for the full range of industrial metals (base and ferrous) at the annual MetalMiner Forecasting Workshop on Aug. 25

Copper prices stabilize

list of commodities prices

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MetalMiner Senior Forecast Analyst Maria Rosa Gobitz earlier this month covered the copper market, for which she noted prices had started to consolidate.

The LME three-month copper price had surged to an all-time high May 10 of around $10,700 per metric ton. The price proceeded to cool over the next 5-6 weeks, falling as low as $9,070 per metric ton.

The copper price then consolidated and has traded largely sideways over the last month. On Wednesday, the price closed at $9,244 per metric ton, or up 1.92% month over month, per MetalMiner Insights data.

Natural gas prices surge

Meanwhile, in energy news, U.S. natural gas prices have reached their highest level since 2014, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

“In June, the U.S. natural gas spot price at the Henry Hub averaged $3.26 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), the highest price during any summer month (April–September) since 2014,” the EIA reported. “Prices in July have increased from June, averaging $3.67/MMBtu through the first two weeks of July. Spot prices for July 14 in every one of the more than 175 pricing hubs tracked by Natural Gas Intelligence exceeded $3.00/MMBtu.”

Cleveland-Cliffs releases Q2 results

Cleveland-Cliffs reported net income of $795 million during Q2 2021, compared with a loss of $108 million during Q2 2020.

“In the second quarter of 2021 we achieved all-time quarterly records in revenue, net income, and adjusted EBITDA,” Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves said. “The numbers unequivocally confirm our efficiency in operating the new footprint, resulting from the integration of the two major steel companies acquired in 2020 as a single and indivisible mining and steel company. They also demonstrate our flawless execution in ramping up our state-of-the-art Direct Reduction plant in Toledo to the current level of production above nominal capacity.”

Each month, MetalMiner hosts a webinar on a specific metals topic. Explore the upcoming webinars and sign up for each on the MetalMiner Events page.

MetalMiner experts recently joined ROTH Capital Partners for a webinar that covered a wide range of metals topics, including oil prices, macroeconomic trends, and insights into the aluminum, steel and copper markets.

bull market

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The webinar, which took place July 14, followed up on a previous MetalMiner-Roth webinar on May 20, 10 days after metals surged to record highs. Copper, for example, reached an all-time on May 10. MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman and Vice President of Business Solutions Don Hauser joined to share their insights on various markets, recapping metals movements in the two months since that peak.

If you missed it live, register here to receive a copy of the webinar recording to hear all of Reisman and Hauser’s insights from the hourlong webinar.

On July 28, get a sneak peek of the MetalMiner annual budgeting and forecasting workshop (a three-hour virtual event that will take place in August 2021). Get ready to plan for 2022. 

Bull market

While prices have come off of the record highs seen in May, they remain elevated. In short, we remain in a bull market.

“We are still in a bull market,” Reisman said. “The nonferrous metals are taking a pause but unless we see them start to fall off toward support levels … they’re still in a bull market.”

However, in terms of the “supercycle” narrative — which we have covered in this space previously — MetalMiner remains skeptical.

“The reason we’re struggling with the big supercycle narrative is that we would expect to see a decade, 1o years, of sustained, upward demand,” she said. “We don’t quite see that.”

With that said, metals demand currently is strong across a range of industries.

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This morning in metals news: global aluminum production rose in June compared to last year, the International Aluminum Institute reported; Ford of Europe reported its Q2 sales; and, lastly, June electricity demand surged amid a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.

Each month, MetalMiner hosts a webinar on a specific metals topic. Explore the upcoming webinars and sign up for each on the MetalMiner Events page.

Global aluminum production rises in June

aluminum ingot

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Global aluminum production reached 5.55 million tons in June, the International Aluminum Institute reported Tuesday.

The June total marked an increase from 5.31 million tons in June 2020. However, output declined from the 5.75 million tons tallied in May 2021.

Furthermore, China’s output reached an estimated 3.25 million tons in June 2021, up from 3.03 million tons in June 2020. However, its output declined from May’s 3.35 million tons.

Ford reports Q2 Europe sales

Meanwhile, Ford of Europe touted sales of 242,618 vehicles in Q2 2021, up 43.7% year over year.

For the year to date (through June), Ford of Europe reported sales jumped 22.6% year over year.

According to the automaker, 46% of its passenger vehicle sales in Euro 20 countries in the second quarter were electric vehicles.

Electricity demand jumps in PNW

Amid a historic heat wave for the Pacific Northwest in June, electricity demand surged, the Energy Information Administration reported.

“A heat wave in the Northwest United States in late June led to more regional demand for electricity. During periods of high temperatures, electricity demand increases as people turn up their air conditioners, dehumidifiers, fans, and other cooling equipment,” the EIA reported. “Very high temperature events, like the one in June in the Northwest, tend to push electricity demand to very high levels.”

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Government interference, even for the best of reasons, can have market-distorting effects.

Take, for example, calls by European aluminum producers to be excluded from the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) carbon border tax proposal.

Do you know the five best practices of sourcing metals, including aluminum?

European aluminum producers want out of CBAM

E.U. flag

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According to a Financial Times report this week, European aluminum producers are calling for exclusion from the first phase of the E.U.’s CBAM. They claim the plan will put the industry at a competitive disadvantage to foreign rivals. The argue it will encourage firms to direct their low-carbon production to Europe and simply sell their high-carbon production elsewhere.

As such, the net effect will be little global reduction in carbon emissions but significant competitive damage to domestic European producers, whose own carbon footprint may not be as low as those foreign competitors.

Some European mills, like Norsk Hydro, have extensive hydroelectric-powered smelter capacity. However, smelters in Europe (including Norway) currently incur a carbon cost, which is part of their electricity prices, the Financial Times reports.

Even producers using hydro and nuclear power pay because of Europe’s marginal pricing system for electricity, which is usually set by coal-fired power stations.

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This morning in metals news: General Motors reported strong Q2 sales in China; miner Anglo American said it had completed its first maritime biofuel trial; and, lastly, the copper price has trended sideways so far in July.

Receive the latest short-term and long-term outlook for the full range of industrial metals (base and ferrous) at the annual MetalMiner Forecasting Workshop on Aug. 25

General Motors reports strong China sales in Q2

General Motors headquarters

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General Motors reported its Q2 sales with its joint ventures in China rose by 5.2%.

The automaker said vehicle deliveries totaled more than 750,000.

“The growth was driven by luxury and premium vehicles, midsize/large SUVs and MPVs, including the Cadillac CT5 and XT6, and Buick LaCrosse, Enclave and GL8 family,” GM said. “Sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs) across GM’s brands also posted a strong performance.”

GM also touted the expansion of its Ultium platform to China.

“In addition to offering popular EVs underpinned by SAIC-GM-Wuling’s locally developed GSEV platform, GM is bringing to China its advanced global EV platform – Ultium – which will empower a range of multi-brand and multi-segment EVs,” GM said. “The first Ultium-based model for China, the Cadillac LYRIQ all-electric SUV, made its global public debut at Auto Shanghai 2021, before it goes on sale early next year.”

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The Copper Monthly Metals Index (MMI) decreased by 7.3% for this month’s reading, as copper prices declined.

July 2021 Copper MMI chart

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

Copper stock

Since the beginning of the year, there have been concerns over copper production levels and stock availability.

LME on-warrant tonnages were at the 100,000/mt level, averaging 84,654 metric tons between January and June. However, throughout June, stock tonnage nearly doubled. Stock tonnage started the month at 97,975 tons and closed at 198,275 tons.

This could be a signal that speculative demand has adjusted. This is particularly true after China attempted to remove excessive speculation by issuing stern warnings to the domestic market, along with the recent release of state stock.

China’s efforts had a strong effect on the copper market. The country represents approximately 50% of global copper consumption.

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The Aluminum Monthly Metals Index (MMI) increased by 0.9% this month, as aluminum prices traded mostly sideways but remained historically high.

July 2021 Aluminum MMI chart

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Aluminum prices

Throughout June, LME aluminum prices cooled off. However, in the last week of the month, prices picked up and surpassed the $2,550/mt mark by the first week of July.

Trading volumes during the first week of July were lower than the June average of 14,426 metric tons. Volumes were heavier on days when the price went down, meaning there is no strong market signal.

Chinese prices trended differently from their LME counterpart. Chinese aluminum prices traded sideways throughout June and the first week of July. In June, trading volumes approximately tripled as the price went up but immediately declined, along with the price which could signal a bullish market.

Russia to impose export tax on metals

The economy minister of Russia, Maxim Reshetnikov, announced that the government was contemplating adding an export duty of at least 15% for steel, nickel, aluminum and copper, effective Aug. 1 through the end of the year.

The measure comes as an effort to protect its defense and construction industries as metal prices continue to rise globally.

However, these tariffs could have a particularly negative global implication for the aluminum market. Rusal controls about 10% of the global aluminum sector.

Moreover, Russia is the second-largest exporter of primary aluminum to the U.S. As such, the U.S. domestic aluminum market would feel an even bigger squeeze, causing further increases in the Midwest premium.

Tight supply

According to Bloomberg, buyers in Japan agreed to pay a premium of $185 per ton above LME prices for the coming quarter, the highest in six years.

This is a sign of a tight aluminum market. As the World Bureau of Metal Statistics reported this month, the aluminum market from January to April 2021 posted a deficit of 588,000 tons.

The deficit is due to a rapid turnaround in the economy. Demand slowed as travel declined early on during the pandemic but has since snapped back strongly.

The price rally has triggered several countries to take measures to help put a cap on price increases. Russia appears poised to implement export tax changes. Furthermore, China plans to release strategic reserves of the metal for the rest of the year.

New aluminum recycling plant

Norwegian industrial company Hydro Aluminum Metal signed a letter of intent to purchase a property in Cassopolis, Michigan, with the objective of building an aluminum recycling plant. The plant will produce aluminum extrusion ingot for use in critical automotive applications, in addition to other transportation and building systems.

The plant is estimated to cost a total of $120 million with a 120,000-metric ton capacity. The final product will be Hydro’s signature “Hydro CIRCAL® extrusion ingots, which contain at least 75% post-consumer scrap certified by third party auditors DNV GL.” The ingots have a CO2 footprint of 2.3 kg CO2e/kg aluminum, Hydro said.

Actual metals prices and trends

LME three-month aluminum increased by 4.1% month over month to $2,535 per metric ton as of July 1.

Chinese primary cash aluminum decreased by 2.0% to $2,901 per metric ton. Chinese aluminum scrap declined by 1.3% to $2,060 per metric ton. Meanwhile, Chinese aluminum billet went down by 1.3% to $2,380 per metric ton.

European 1050 aluminum sheet increased by 2.0% to $3,649 per metric ton.

Indian primary cash declined by 2.2% to $2.266 per kilogram.

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Russia’s plan to introduce from Aug. 1 a temporary export duty on metal exports has brought varied reactions from European industry watchers and market participants.

“It’s about showing the strength of the Russian metals industry,” one analyst told MetalMiner.

Russia’s planned tariff may also be a retaliatory measure against Europe and its proposed carbon tax on metals imports from high-carbon producers, of which Russia is one, the analyst added.

“It feels like it is a broadside shot,” the analyst 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.

Russia export duty to cover steel, base metals

tariff

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The Russian Federal Government’s Decree No. 988 of June 25 stipulates a 15% export duty from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 on all steel – semi-finished and finished – as well as on copper nickel, and low-grade aluminum leaving the country and the wider Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Member states of the EAEU include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. In addition, Cuba, Moldova and Uzbekistan are observer states.

One of the more likely beneficiaries in Europe from the duty is the steel sector, sources told MetalMiner.

“Everybody loves this,” one analyst said about Russia’s tentative export duty, as it could further push up already-high prices for steel products in Europe.

Domestically produced hot rolled coil for Q4 production within Western Europe is now €1,170-€1,200 ($1,390-1,420) per ton exw, traders said. That marks an increase from the €1,120-1,130 ($1,370-1,385) reported earlier in June.

Planned shutdowns of rolling equipment or banking of hot ends for maintenance over Europe’s summer months could also further push up prices in the face of high demand throughout Western Europe, the analyst stated.

One steel trader voiced a similar opinion.

“This is great for everybody” the trader noted, as the decree will push up steel prices on both the domestic and import markets.

“Who’s gonna wait until the end of the year to acquire steel if Russia is out of the market?” the trader rhetorically asked.

Ukraine’s Metinvest is likely to also benefit from this. The group is a major supplier of long products into the E.U. Resulting higher prices will also mean more revenue.

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