Articles in Category: Premium

Our June MMI Report is in the books, and there’s a lot to unpack.

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

Out of 10 MMI sub-indexes, four posted no movement from our May MMIs. That wasn’t true for all, though, as the report shows promising signs for construction (compared with last year). Like the Construction MMI, growth in the automotive sector slowed a bit, but still performed better than at the same time last year.

In terms of policy, several things happening around the world will have macroscopic effects on these industries.

Domestically, the Trump administration’s ongoing Section 232 investigation into steel imports will have ripple effects at home and abroad (namely in the Chinese steel market).

In the U.K., the recent shocker of a parliamentary election leaves question marks regarding the way forward — is it going to be a “hard” or “soft” Brexit? Does Theresa May have the political capital to make a hard Brexit happen? It seems unlikely now, but that situation continues to develop. In terms of business and metal markets, whichever iteration of Brexit takes hold will have effects on the ways in which British companies do business with Europe.

In China, many analysts expect growth to slow in the second half of 2017 as the government aims to put the squeeze on credit growth. (Moody’s recently downgraded China’s credit rating for the first time since 1989.)

While several MMI sub-indexes did not go up or down this past month, there was still quite a bit going on in each sector. You can fill yourself in by downloading our June MMI Report, which offers all of the storylines and trends for our 10 MMI sub-indexes, presented in one convenient place.

Download the free report by filling out the form below! *Members: Skip the form and log in to grab the free PDF! Please note: Since we securely host our reports, the URL link will be live for 60 seconds upon downloading – so please save the PDF to your files!
















captcha

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

After a 17-point leap in our Renewables MMI from April to May, the sub-index — which tracks metals and materials going into the renewable energy industry — posted no movement for our June reading, standing at 71.

(A quick note: Last month, the sub-index rose to 71 after a recalibration of our index to better account for cobalt price fluctuations.)

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

But that doesn’t mean there were not big swings within the sector — far from it.

U.S. steel plate, the heavy hitter of this group, posted a 4.8% drop last month — but that quickly reversed itself.

This time around, U.S. steel plate bounced back, posting a 2.7% increase. The bounceback followed a trend of exclusive growth for U.S. steel plate in 2017, as the 4.8% drop reflected by the May 1 price marked the only month-to-month drop of the year thus far.

Unlike steel plate, U.S. grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES) went in the other direction, posting a price drop that nearly erased previous the April-May price increase. This month, GOES dropped 6.2%, one month after prices rose by 9.1%. (More on how GOES does/doesn’t trend along with broader steel markets in the section below.)

Abroad, steel plate also had good months in China and Japan. Chinese steel plate rose by 2.8%, while Japanese steel plate got a 0.7% boost.

What’s the Deal With GOES?

As MetalMiner’s Executive Editor Lisa Reisman wrote Thursday, GOES prices have been on a “roller coaster ride” so far this year.

“GOES prices do not tend to follow general steel price trends, nor does simple fundamental (supply and demand) analysis help explain price trends,” Reisman wrote.

Globally, however, GOES prices are on the rise. Why? That has been driven by an increased demand for electric cars and GOES producers in the U.S., Korea and Japan securing tonnage at a $400-500/metric ton increase over previously contracted prices.

Domestically, while prices for GOES — metals used in electrical transformers — went down this month, Reisman predicted that likely won’t become a trend throughout the remainder of the year.

“It’s hard to see any outcome not resulting in rising U.S. GOES prices for the second half of the year,” she wrote.

Again, looking to the global picture, good news for this sector is the growth of the renewable energy industry overall.

Free Download: The May 2017 MMI Report

The BBC reported the U.K. has set renewable energy production records this year. In the U.S., CNBC reported even in states like Kansas — which two years ago repealed a renewable energy mandate that called for 20% of the state’s electrical power to come from renewable sources by 2020 — have ramped up renewable energy production.

Actual Metal Prices

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

Here’s What Happened

  • All quiet on the precious-metals front this month, as our Global Precious Metals MMI held pat from May to June at a reading of 84.
  • Since we tend to keep a closer eye on the platinum group metals (PGMs) due to their automotive applications, the U.S. platinum price tracked by the MetalMiner IndX posted only a negligible gain, while the U.S. palladium price suffered only a negligible loss…reflected directly in the wash that was the sub-index’s June performance.
  • Interestingly, gold has been getting hot as of late. More on that below.

What’s Going On in the Background?

  • Although the Global Precious Metals MMI did not reflect it in the May-to-June time period, the U.S. gold price increase after June 1 has gotten some heads turning. As my colleague and new MetalMiner Editor Fouad Egbaria reported earlier this week, “gold neared its year-to-date high on Tuesday,” according to Reuters. “The rise comes in a climate of political uncertainty, with an election in the United Kingdom, former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday and a European Central Bank meeting this week,” Egbaria noted.
  • Back to platinum. As a reflection of the metal’s dawdling short-term pricing, South African producer Lonmin has been struggling, so much so that Reuters reported earlier this week that the company is “pulling every lever to try to restore confidence in its ailing business, including reopening a major shaft and expanding its biggest operation,” according to Lonmin’s CEO. Low prices and skyrocketing costs have reportedly conspired to present the company with a cash problem over the past near-decade.

What Metal Buyers Should Look Out For

  • Platinum specifically has had a low-price problem this year — but that’s obviously less of a problem if you’re purchasing metal. While we’re unsure of when prices will swing back up, mainly because output cuts in South Africa and elsewhere have seemingly not helped, it may be hard to discount current windows for smaller spot buys.

Exact Prices of the Key Movers and Shakers

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

selensergen/Adobe Stock

Our Aluminum MMI sub-index has steadily climbed since a score of 79 to start the year. For our June reading, this sub-index checked in at 88, holding steady after an 88 reading in May.

Prior to May, the Aluminum MMI last hit or exceeded 88 in May 2015, when it checked in at 90.

Two-Month Trial: Metal Buying Outlook

The major players in this sub-index, primary 3-month aluminum on the London Metal Exchange (LME) and Chinese primary aluminum, posted price drops, by 1% and 1.6%, respectively. Chinese scrap also fell by a similar margin, dropping in price by 1.3%.

On the other hand, solid price jumps in other aluminum products leveled the balance for the month.

Chinese billet, for example, rose by 1.1%. On the LME, 5083 aluminum plate prices rose by a robust 6.3%.

Aluminum Around the World

In light of several Arab nations’ decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar — alleging that Qatar is financing terrorism in the region — aluminum exports from the small nation have been disrupted. According to Reuters, an aluminum plant partly owned by Norsk Hydro will have to seek alternate routes for aluminum exports from the country, due to air space restrictions imposed by Qatar’s neighbors.

Meanwhile, as Raul de Frutos wrote, there were high expectations for aluminum to start the year.

Goldman Sachs added to the hype by being particularly bullish about the metal, predicting LME primary three-month aluminum will hit $2,000/metric ton this year. For now, the market stepped back from that prediction after the 1% drop from the May to June readings.

Chinese supply-side reforms, namely cutting aluminum (among other metal) production to curb pollution, could have positive effects on prices — if they are implemented. Aluminum prices got a boost early this year when the Chinese government announced a proposal to curtail its output of aluminum and other metals.

On top of all that, President Donald Trump’s administration’s national security probe into metal imports continues to loom. The probe is ongoing; it is still unclear when it might conclude or what practical policy effects it might have.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

Actual Metal Prices

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

U.S. domestic prices of grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES) fell this past month, continuing the roller coaster ride of price increases and decreases in the GOES M3 index since the start of this year.

GOES prices do not tend to follow general steel price trends, nor does simple fundamental (supply and demand) analysis help explain price trends.

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

Globally, for example, GOES prices are on the rise, on the back of several developments.

Demand for electric cars

An increased demand for electric cars that use high-quality non-oriented electrical steel (NOES), is one such development. MetalMiner has reviewed market growth data supplied by an automotive manufacturer indicating that demand for electric vehicles is anticipated to take about 8% market share away from internal combustion engine (ICE) automobiles by 2020, with battery electric vehicles (BEV) taking up the largest share of electric vehicle (EV) growth.

NOES is required to get the power from the battery to the motor. How does this impact GOES prices? High-quality NOES often needs to run on GOES product lines, thereby limiting GOES capacity.

In theory, this should cause prices to rise.

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

Inzyx/Adobe Stock

Our Raw Steels sub-index score dropped by 10% from March to April, partially a result of slumping prices in China.

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

That score experienced a bit of a comeback for our June reading, rising to 68 from the May reading of 66.

This time around, Chinese steels posted price increases, providing a boost after a tepid April. Chinese slab steel prices rose by 20.1% and billet steel also experienced a major bump, rising by 15.2%.

In the U.S., shredded scrap steel prices stabilized after a 7.1% drop the previous month. Shredded scrap’s June price point is the metal’s second-highest of 2017.

U.S. Steel Prices: Going Up or Down?

As we’ve previously reported, Chinese and U.S. steel price divergences usually mean one will have to move to close the gap.

So, what does that mean for U.S. steel prices?

As we noted previously, U.S. steel prices rose as Chinese prices dropped by 20%, leaving a widening price spread. Ultimately, the former may have to pull back price momentum.

And, given data in 2017 to date, a price drop for U.S. hot-rolled coil (HRC) and shredded scrap would not be surprising. The former has posted price drops every month this year, while the latter has shifted back and forth on either side of a $300/short ton baseline.

President Donald Trump and his administration’s ongoing national security probe into U.S. steel imports will continue to be something to monitor. The administration’s actions with respect to the investigation, if any, would have effects on steel prices and the interplay between U.S. and Chinese prices, in particular.

Actual Metal Prices

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

The Construction MMI, tracking metals and raw materials used within the construction industry, bounced back up to 81 for our June reading after notching a 79 for May.

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

Construction continues to trend positively, as evidenced by the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

For the most recently available statistics for the month of April, total construction spending dipped from March to April, but April spending exceeded the April 2016 total by 6.7%. The Census Bureau estimates approximately $1,218.5 billion in April spending, a 1.4% decline from $1,235.5 billion in March.

Total spending (public and private) through the first four months of 2017 outpaced that of the same time frame in 2016, with $359.5 billion in spending this year, a 5.8% increase from last year. Spending on residential construction in April 2017 was up by 15.6% from April 2016. Spending on commercial and office spaces was up by 12.4%, in each case, from April 2016.

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), put out by the American Institute of Architects, painted a similar picture. The most recent ABI report for April notes that architecture firm billings increased for the third month in a row.

With a score of 50 as a midpoint (meaning no decrease or increase), the South and Midwest regions of the U.S. came in strongest, with scores of 55.3 and 53.3, respectively. The West and Northeast regions also posted increases, with scores of 50.9 and 50.7, respectively.

U.S. Scrap Fights Way Over $300 Mark

In the United States, shredded scrap steel again surpassed $300/short ton after dipping under last month. The price for scrap saw a 1% increase. (For the exact prices in this story, log in or sign up below.)

On the bright side for buyers, steel bar fuel surcharges decreased across the U.S.

In the Gulf Coast, fuel surcharges dropped 2.8%. Midwest prices fell by 1.3%. Over in the Rocky Mountain region, prices settled in after a .07% drop on the month.

President Donald Trump’s administration’s investigation into U.S. steel imports — and any resulting policy effects of that investigation — will be something to monitor through the rest of the year and possibly into next year.

Chinese Steel Prices Get a Jolt

While many expect growth to slow in China in the second half of 2017, prices for rebar and H-beam steel increased significantly, bouncing back after a sharp drop in April.

Th rebar price spiked by about 9.5%. H-beam steel had a similarly large boost, rising by 7.6%.

Chinese aluminum bars dropped by 1.1%. Iron ore prices also rose by 1.1%.

European Aluminum Sheets in Neutral

In Europe, commercial 1050 aluminum sheets held steady, with prices ticking up by .02%.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

Here are the Exact Prices of Those Movers and Shakers

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

The June Stainless MMI follows its prior three-month trend, dropping 3 points again this month to end up at a value of 54. With the 5.3% loss, the sub-index is coming back to the same levels as one year ago.

The steel (and stainless steel) industry has always been strongly influenced by political issues. Now that the trade cases have largely been decided, the Trump administration’s Section 232 investigation will likely have an impact on domestic steel markets, including the stainless steel sector. Recommendations will likely be released in July.

Steel capacity utilization has increased this past month, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). We’ve also seen a healthy manufacturing PMI, indicating positive industrial development.

Notwithstanding, the Chinese Caixin manufacturing PMI index hit an 11-month low. Despite strong growth indicators here in the U.S., steel market participants should carefully monitor the powerful link between the price of steel in China and that in the United States. A rebound in the Chinese economy — and consequently in the steel market — might result in increased steel (and stainless steel) prices. Conversely, the opposite is also true.

Nickel prices have also fallen this month due to Philippine mines reopening, together with increased Indonesian exports.

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

Stainless steel prices usually move drastically in one direction and then hold steady for a little while. While we watch a possible price correction, buying organizations might want to follow the market closely to identify possible buying opportunities should prices continue to decline.

Actual Stainless Steel Prices and Trends

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

MetalMiner’s Copper MMI held steady in June, driven by the recovery of the LME Copper 3-month price, which held above previous lows.

The demand and supply balance has affected copper’s price over the past few months. The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) released the 2017-2018 Copper forecast, indicating a larger than expected supply deficit for 2017 and 2018.

Source: International Copper Study Group (ICSG)

Supply concerns have eased during this last month, as Chile’s Escondida mine ramps up production after the strike. May production levels have now reached pre-strike production levels. Workers at Freeport McMoRan’s Grasberg mine, however, are expected to remain on strike until July.

Meanwhile, demand concerns have driven this month’s price downtrend due to the direct impact of declining Chinese demand. Manufacturing activity in China has slowed down, as has market sentiment, forcing the Chinese government to pursue additional stimulus measures.

Despite China’s slowing demand for copper this past year, Latin America appears as a bright spot; from a long-term perspective, the region may boost copper demand. Investment in renewables and efficient building systems would increase copper’s demand. According to the International Copper Association (ICA), copper usage may increase by more than 4 million tons by 2030.

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

Currently, copper prices are directly affected by Chinese demand, as well as by uncertainty in supply. This downtrend in copper prices might be just a brief pause in a dynamic market. Thus, copper-buying organizations should watch the market closely, looking for a possible uptrend that would show a recovery.

Actual Copper Prices and Trends

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

Here’s What Happened

  • Our Rare Earths MMI, tracking 14 rare earth metal and mineral prices, ticked up to 21 for the June 1 reading, a whopping 10.5% increase from May.
  • We write “whopping” mainly because the Rare Earths MMI has held below the value threshold of 20 since August 2015 — a full 22 months ago. As we wrote last month, that’s when the stock market had its worst month in 5 years.
  • Rare earths prices on the whole, however, seem to be recovering from their 2016 lows. Terbium oxide, for example, rose 11.8% from May to June. Europium oxide, for its part, spiked up 16.7% in the same period.
  • Meanwhile, the dysprosium oxide price has fallen off slightly month-on-month.

What’s Going On in the Background?

  • “The REE mining process is intensive and requires highly toxic processing, which reduces competitiveness,” according to this article. “Because of lighter restrictions on mining and—especially—processing, China remains the world’s top supplier of rare earths.” But a considerable knock-on effect on rare earths prices could be the environmental pollution curbs that China has been (at least publicly) committing itself to as a developing economy. The environmental pressure has likely filtered down to the rare earths processing industry, constricting output enough to squeeze prices upward.
  • Outside China, these exact environmental worries have hamstrung any viable production models (or at the very least, profitable ones) — and Exhibit A is the Molycorp/Mountain Pass debacle. The Mountain Pass mine in California, which used to the the Western Hemisphere’s best bet to unburden its markets from reliance on Chinese REEs, is now being buffeted about by investors battling for the scraps.

What Metal Buyers Should Look Out For

  • While we’re by no means at a market top for the rare earths sector, keep a close eye on “hot” REEs such as dysprosium, as we mentioned last month. New ventures that are getting folks’ attention, such as this one in Australia, are creating a lot of bullish narratives. As we mentioned before, however, in the short term, dysprosium does not look as strong as some of the other constituent metals and minerals, dropping in price between May 1 to June 1.

Key Price Movers and Shakers

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |