Articles in Category: Precious Metals

We’re another month closer to the end of the calendar year, and there’s much to recap from the last month in metals.

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

After four MMIs ticked upward for our November reading, five did so for our latest report.

Hitting some of the high points:

  • The biggest winners of the month were the Automotive, Construction and Raw Steels MMIs. Automotive picked up four points, while Construction and Raw Steels picked up five points apiece.
  • The Aluminum MMI tracked back down, losing four points after a five-point rise the previous month. As Irene Martinez Canorea wrote, a dropping LME aluminum price had much to do with the sub-index’s drop.
  • The Stainless MMI, meanwhile, fell five points on the month. In this case, a 10% decline in nickel prices contributed to the MMI’s fall. Trading volume for LME nickel is still strong, Martinez Canorea wrote, and the outlook for nickel remains bullish.

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

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This morning in metals news, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill ending the state’s moratorium on gold and silver mining, Chile approaches a busy year for mine union negotiations, and Chinese steel futures drop.

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

Going for the Gold in the Badger State

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill ending the state’s moratorium on gold and silver mining, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The moratorium was imposed in 1998, when Walker was a member of the state Assembly.

Union Negotiations on the Horizon in Chile

Chile’s copper mining industry has a busy schedule next year, with 32 union contracts on the docket, Bloomberg reported.

Chile, a dominant force in the copper industry, will negotiate the contracts, which represent approximately 75% of the country’s copper output, according to the report.

China Steel Futures Drop

Chinese steel futures took a dip Tuesday as a result of concerns regarding demand in the country, the world’s top steel consumer, according to Reuters.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

According to the report, upward price movement driven by supply constriction is expected to be counterbalanced by a drop in demand as winter weather affects construction projects.

The Rare Earths MMI took a three-point drop for the month, falling to 18 for our December reading. 
Save for an 11-cent increase in the Chinese yttrium price, the heavier hitters in this basket of metals  — terbium oxide, neodymium oxide, europium oxide and dysprosium oxide — posted price drops.

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

Australian Rare Earths Miner Makes a Comeback

An article by Forbes chronicles the major bounceback of Australian rare-earths miner Lynas Corp., which rebounded after losing 99% of its share price.

The reason for the revival? The electric-car wave and environmental cleanup efforts in China, the Forbes article reports.

Surviving an oversupplied market that saw rare-earths prices plummet in recent years, a tightening of the market by China — the dominant global producer of rare earths — saw the firm’s fortunes reverse.

“Lynas, a former gold miner, somehow survived, and today it’s enjoying a rerun of the rare-earths shortage as China’s tougher pollution laws and the growing popularity of electric cars are boosting prices,” Forbes reports.

Namibia Rare Earths Acquires Portfolio of Metal Properties

In other recent news, Namibia Rare Earths announced in November the acquisition of a portfolio of critical metal properties in Namibia.

According to a release from the firm, it agreed to acquire a “majority interest in seven projects ranging from exploration opportunities to near term feasibility stage” from Gecko Namibia (Pty) Ltd.

“The Gecko Namibia portfolio of properties will expand the Company’s commodity base from solely rare earths to a variety of highly critical commodities including cobalt, copper, zinc, lithium, graphite, tantalum, niobium, nickel, and gold,” the release continues. “Ground holdings in Namibia will increase from 221 km2 (Lofdal) to over 6,850 km2.”

Instability, Violence in Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is rich with rare-earths, like cobalt, used in things like computers, cellphones and electric car batteries.

However, political instability and violence in the country this year have understandably had significant effects on the rare-earths market in the central African country. (Of course, as has been mentioned in this space before, the market effects of the instability and violence is not the primary takeaway of these events, but is relevant insofar as we are talking about metals.)

Recently, at least 14 United Nations peacekeepers were killed after an attack in the eastern portion of the country Friday, the Washington Post reported.

In a statement Friday, U.N Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the attack, saying it constituted a war crime.

“This is the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the Organization’s recent history,” Guterres said.

While the price of metals is a small consideration compared with the bloodshed in the country this year — in August, the U.N. reported approximately 250 people were killed in ethnic-based massacres — instability and violence certainly have an effect on production capabilities and, thus, metal prices for rare earths mined in the DRC (like cobalt).

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

Here’s What Happened

  • MetalMiner’s Global Precious MMI, tracking a basket of precious metals from across the globe, ticked up another point to 88 for the December reading, a 1.1% increase.
  • Palladium flexed its muscles, officially busting through the $1,000 per ounce ceiling. The platinum-group metal’s (PGM) U.S. bar price has jumped nearly a whopping 50% since the beginning of the year.
  • Platinum crept closer to palladium’s level over the last month, ending up in the mid-$900s per ounce level. It has receded from its most recent high of March 2017, when it landed above $1,000 per ounce.
  • “We’ve got a trend, folks!” — this is the third straight month in which palladium is priced at a premium to platinum, which has not been the historical norm.
  • After breaking and holding above the $1,300 per ounce threshold at the beginning of September for the first time since October 2016, the U.S. gold price has been dropping for a couple months before leveling out for Dec. 1. Gold bullion is just about $4 per ounce higher than it was at the start of November.

What’s Going On in the Background?

  • Why has palladium been trading at a premium to platinum? A reminder: “Palladium has traded at a discount to platinum because of platinum’s greater cost of extraction and its wider scope of applications,” according to Stuart Burns, MetalMiner’s editor at large. But the fall of diesel (compared to gas) engines has bumped up palladium demand — which, coupled with anticipation of both palladium and platinum production falling, according to analysts from UBS and SP Angel, paints a picture of potentially sustained higher prices. For now, heading into the winter holidays, the current trend is making palladium investors feel pretty good.
  • Gold in the spotlight. Let’s pivot to gold a bit this month. A gold mine in Ireland is causing some controversy amidst the background of Brexit, with greater numbers of potential jobs and environmental impact all hanging in the balance.

What Metal Buyers Should Look Out For

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This afternoon in metals news, the U.S. renewable energy industry has reason to worry about the Republican tax proposal, union members at the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in Chile move closer to a strike, and precious metal prices fall.

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Renewables Market Pushes Against BEAT Tax

While the Republicans’ latest attempt at an overhaul of the U.S. tax system is receiving the usual praise and criticism, the renewable energy sector is concerned – and understandably so. As Dino Grandoni explains in the Washington Post, the bill may inadvertently end investment in wind and solar energy.

Currently, many companies have large multinational corporations finance wind or solar energy projects, and in return, give the latter the renewable energy credit that the government provides. But these credits may be cancelled out as part of the base erosion anti-abuse (BEAT) tax, which is meant to discourage multinationals from moving profits abroad.

According to the American Wind Energy Association’s Peter L. Kelley, the BEAT tax – if it is not amended to exempt renewables credits – could put an end to more than half of the country’s wind projects.

Strike Brewing at Quebrada Blanca Mine

A quarter of the workforce at the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in Chile moved closer to a strike, as the 106-member union rejected Canadian miner Teck Resources’ contract offer on Wednesday, Reuters reports. Ninety-six percent of the union voted to reject the offer and strike, said the president of the union. Read more

Gold prices seem to be moving sideways after prices peaked in September.

Gold prices followed similar patterns to other base metals (such as copper and nickel), and rallied during Q3. We might expect to see price pullbacks after volatile bullish runs.

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

Gold spot prices. Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

Gold and the U.S. Dollar

U.S. dollar-price movements heavily impact gold; the weaker the dollar, the stronger the gold price.

The U.S. dollar has appeared weak since the beginning of this year, while gold prices have risen. This suggests a negative correlation.

Gold-Continuous Contract price in orange. U.S. dollar in black. Source: MetalMiner analysis of StockCharts

In the chart above, both gold and U.S. dollar prices appear in the upper half of the chart. The black line at the bottom reflects the correlation between the U.S. dollar and gold prices. Both correlate negatively, which supports our previous statement.

A weaker U.S. dollar will help boost gold prices. Moreover, the correlation value falls between  -0.70, and even closer to -1. Therefore, gold and the U.S. dollar have a strong negative correlation, and the U.S. dollar serves as a reliable indicator for gold.

However, at certain times the correlation appears positive.

In July 2016 and July 2017, both the U.S. dollar and gold prices traded together. This tells us that the negative correlation doesn’t always provide clues as to gold prices.

S&P 500 Supporting the Bulls

Stock markets also shed light on metals markets.

Even though increasing stock markets do not necessarily equate to booming metal prices, they do suggest confidence in the overall economy. The S&P 500 currently trades at its historical levels, even in uncharted territory.

S&P500. Source: MetalMiner analysis of StockCharts

A rising stock market reflects investors’ positive sentiment with respect to the economy. The S&P 500 has increased by 15% so far this year. A better economic performance may lead traders to put their money in commodities, which will support the rally in base metal and precious metal prices.

Chinese Stock Market

The Chinese FXI index reflects an expansion in that economy.

Even though the FXI index has fluctuated more than the S&P 500 during the last five years, the uptrend that began in 2016 appears sustainable (at least for now).

FXI Source: MetalMiner analysis of StockCharts

Long-Term Relationship: Copper and Gold Prices

Readers might be asking: how can I relate gold prices to base metals strategy?

The answer is simple: copper and gold have traded historically in the same trend. Both gold and copper prices are currently in a long-term uptrend.

Gold-Continuous Contract price in purple. Copper in black. Source: MetalMiner analysis of StockCharts

However, a couple of divergences took place at the beginning of 2016 and at the end of the same year.

Gold prices rallied at the beginning of 2016, while copper prices increased (but by a smaller amount). At the end of 2016, copper prices rallied and gold prices dropped. They recovered afterwards, continuing its uptrend together with copper.

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

Industrial metal buyers may want to consider gold price trends as an additional indicator at which to look.

Currently, stock markets are signaling a continuation of a commodities bullish market, as well as a healthy economy in U.S. and China. Therefore, buying organizations may want to understand how and when to buy to reduce their costs.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

Buying dips are reflected in our Monthly Outlook and a long-term analysis for every base metal and steel forms in our free Annual Outlook. 

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Management’s claim that this is one of the best gold projects on the planet may be a bit of hyperbole, but it does tick all the boxes as an exciting new resource located close to major communication and support infrastructure in a politically and economically stable country.

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

The Curraghinalt gold deposit in the Sperrin Mountains, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland is owned by junior miner Dalradian Resources, which since the purchase of the resource in 2009 is said to have invested hundreds of millions of dollars, developing more than 2 kilometers of underground tunnels and more than 100,000 meters of drilling in order to prove the resource and qualify for planning consent.

Indeed, so compelling are the numbers and so attractive is the case that the only hitch seems to be that Dalradian’s Curraghinalt is situated in the center of an area of outstanding natural beauty, raising fears environmental objections may delay approval.

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Another month has come and gone — now it’s time to take a look back at what’s happened in the world of metals. 

In August, all 10 of our MMIs saw upward movement. That changed the following month, when eight of 10 MMIs fell (albeit several of them fell by small amounts).

For our November MMI (tracking October’s activity), four of the MMIs moved up, five moved down and one held flat (the Automotive MMI).

Hitting some of the high points:

  • It was a big month for stainless steel. The Stainless MMI surged by seven points, hitting 70, up from the October reading of 63.
  • Aluminum also had another strong month, continuing what has been a very strong 2017 for the metal. The Aluminum MMI hit its highest reading, 99, in the history of the MMI series.
  • The doctor was in the house this past month (Dr. Copper, that is). The Copper MMI jumped four points.

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

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was.

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

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

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

Here’s What Happened

  • MetalMiner’s Global Precious MMI, tracking a basket of precious metals from across the globe, ticked back up a point to 87 for the November reading, a 1.2% increase. After a sizable dropoff last month, it looks as though this sub-index is crawling back toward the 2017 high of 89 reached this past September.
  • Palladium forged ahead, hitting a new high this year and landing a bit shy of the $1,000 per ounce mark. The platinum group metal’s U.S. bar price has jumped a whopping 44% since the beginning of the year.
  • Platinum rose marginally over the last month, staying just above the $900 per ounce level. It has receded from its most recent high of March 2017, when it landed above $1,000 per ounce. Notably, this is the second straight month in which palladium is priced at a premium to platinum.
  • After breaking and holding above the $1,300 per ounce threshold at the beginning of September for the first time since October 2016, the U.S. gold price is in its third straight month of retracement, ending up $9 per ounce lower than last month.

What’s Going On in the Background?

  • Why has palladium been trading at a premium to platinum? First, a bit of history.
  • “Palladium has traded at a discount to platinum because of platinum’s greater cost of extraction and its wider scope of applications,” MetalMiner’s editor at large Stuart Burns recently wrote. “But one application in which palladium does excel is catalytic converters for petrol engines. The diesel engine’s relative loss of favor over the last 12 to 18 months to the petrol engine has boosted demand for palladium, driving up the price to the point that it exceeded that of platinum for the first time in 16 years.”
  • Burns quotes analysts from UBS and SP Angel as saying they anticipate both palladium and platinum production to fall.

What Metal Buyers Should Look Out For

  • In the short term, keep an eye out on car sales. “With car sales growth featuring more in petrol-engine-dominated American and Chinese markets, and less in diesel markets like Europe, the demand bias has been for palladium, rather than platinum,” Burns writes. “But even within Europe there is gradual shift from diesel to petrol.” In fact, according to industry research group LMC, sales of diesel cars in western Europe fell from 45.1% of the market to 42.7% this year.
  • In the long term, the Rise of the Machines — electric vehicles, specifically — could really dent platinum and palladium demand.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

Key Price Movers and Shakers

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