Articles in Category: Public Policy

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

  • In case you missed it, our August MMI Report is out. Metals like copper and aluminum hit record highs, and nine of our 10 sub-indexes posted upward movement as a result of a strong July. Will that momentum continue? Check back next month for the September MMI report.
  • Many have predicted a decline for iron ore prices, but as our Stuart Burns wrote on Monday, reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. A weak U.S. dollar, combined with strong equities and global GDP, have helped keep iron ore performing well, not to mention Chinese steel and the wider metals market. Read through for Burns’ assessment of the iron ore market.
  • In India, a boom of bauxite production is expected, wrote our Sohrab Darabshaw. In fact, it is expected to more than double by 2021. How is that possible? One reason, Darabshaw writes, is “increased domestic demand for aluminium, which will largely be sourced from the quintupling of land under mining lease in the Odisha province (which has the bulk of India’s bauxite reserves).”
  • One commodity almost everyone is interested in is oil. On Tuesday, Burns wrote about the future of oil prices. But, since this is MetalMiner, after all, those prices also have an effect on metal markets.
  • Everyone loves a good M&A story, and Burns had one earlier this week on the ongoing talks between Indian steel giant Tata Steel and Germany’s ThyssenKrupp. Plus, he touches on ArcelorMittal’s takeover of Italy’s Ilva. Burns writes: “For the first time in years, steelmakers at least seem to have a plan and are actively pursuing it. Whether that plan is to the eventual benefit or detriment of consumers remains to be seen — but a healthier domestic steel industry must certainly be advantageous to all.”
  • How about zinc? Burns wrote about the metal’s rise to $3,000, and the reasons behind zinc’s price hitting its highest point since 2007.
  •  Last week was a busy one for the U.S. Department of Commerce, which handed down preliminary determinations in countervailing duty investigations for both Chinese aluminum and silicon coming from a trio of countries.
  • Back in India, steel exports are on the rise as the Indian government’s protectionist measures seem to be paying off for its domestic industry.
  • Lastly, representatives of the U.S., Canada and Mexico began talks on Wednesday regarding renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the trade deal instituted in 1994. The U.S. is focused on, among other things, bringing down ballooning trade deficits with the two countries (particularly Mexico). The talks are scheduled to continue until Sunday, so check back for updates on the proceedings.

Free Download: The August 2017 MMI Report

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

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s ruling Aug. 8 on Chinese aluminum foil wasn’t the only determination it announced that day.

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

On top of the foil ruling — in which the department ruled that Chinese foil imports benefited unfairly from government subsidies, and as a result could be subject to duties of up to 81% — the DOC also issued a preliminary countervailing duty determination regarding silicon imports from Australia, Brazil and Kazakhstan.

According to a DOC release, silicon exporters from Australia, Brazil and Kazakhstan benefited from countervailing subsides of 16.23%, 3.69 to 52.07%, and 120%, respectively.

“We will continue to review all information related to this preliminary determination,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in the release. “The Trump Administration remains vigilant against foreign actors that take advantage of American workers and businesses.”

Imports of silicon metal from Australia, Brazil, and Kazakhstan were valued at an estimated $33.9 million, $60.0 million, and $17.5 million, respectively, according to the DOC release.

The petitioner is Globe Specialty Metals, Inc., which has production facilities in Alabama, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.

The DOC’s rulings on silicon and aluminum foil are representative of the Trump administration’s emphasis on antidumping and countervailing duty probes. According to the DOC release, the administration has launched 64 investigations between Jan. 20 and Aug. 8, marking a 40% increase from the same timeframe last year.

Last year, the U.S. collected $1.5 billion in duties on $14 billion of imported goods “found to be underpriced or subsidized by foreign governments,” according to the DOC announcement.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

gui yong nian/Adobe Stock

This afternoon in metals news, supply-side reform in China is having significant effects on global markets, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls for trade action to combat cheap imports of steel and aluminum from China and other countries, and scientists have resolved a long-standing mystery about a prehistoric copper smelting event.

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

Chinese Supply-Side Reforms Leave Their Mark

There are many who question the impact of China’s efforts to curtail excess production, but according to a report by Platts, supply-side reforms in the country are having major impacts around the world.

China’s net steel exports through the first seven months of the year were down almost a third, according to the report. Hot rolled coil prices have also risen in the process, reaching their highest point since 2013.

“Given the current protectionist bent that seems to span the globe, it will be interesting to see how China’s metal exports will be perceived in a few years’ time,” the Platts report concludes. “In the US, for example, there is not enough steel capacity to deliver upon the infra-build being promised by President Trump, should Section 232 be imposed, and the build go ahead.”

Schumer Calls for Action on Cheap Steel, Aluminum Imports

The Trump administration launched Section 232 investigations into imports of steel and aluminum, with a particular focus on China.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, sounded a similar note, according to a report in the Watertown Daily Times.

“There are top notch manufactures like Alcoa and Nucor ready to provide high-quality aluminum and steel to businesses in and around the country, but China’s overproduction has resulted in a substantial threat to Upstate New York’s metal industry by making it almost impossible for companies that play by the rules to compete,” Schumer said in a statement.

According to the report, Schumer has sent letters to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the matter.

Scientists Resolve Ancient Copper Smelting Mystery

For more than half a century, the origins of a copper smelting event at a prehistoric archaeological site has remained a mystery.

But recently, a team of scientists hit paydirt at the Late Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in central Turkey.

“Scholars have been hotly debating the origins and spread of metallurgy for decades, mainly due to the relationship this technology had with the rise of social complexity and economy of the world’s first civilisations in the Near East,” according to a report in phys.org.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

According to the report, a study published Tuesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science concludes that that after “the re-examination of a c. 8,500-year-old by-product from metal smelting, or ‘slag’, from the site of Çatalhöyük presents the conclusive reconstruction of events that led to the firing of a small handful of green copper minerals.”

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

This afternoon in metals news, experts say that despite the delay in the Section 232 investigation of steel imports, they still expect President Donald Trump to impose tariffs, U.S. steel production is up 2.9% in the year to date and copper and steel output from Kazakhstan rose significantly from January to July.

Section 232 Tariffs Still Coming, Experts Say

The wait continues for the Trump administration’s announcement of what it is going to do at the conclusion of its Section 232 investigation into steel imports.

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

The investigation was launched in April, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has 270 days to present President Donald Trump with a report (making for a January deadline).

An announcement was expected to be made by the end of June, but that self-imposed deadline came and went without an announcement. However, despite the delay, some industry experts believe Trump still plans to impose tariffs, according to a report by Reuters.

Trading partners around the world, including the European Union, in recent months have warned of the possibility of retaliatory measures should the U.S. move forward with tariffs (or a quota system, or a hybrid tariff-quota measure).

A Trump administration official told Reuters the Section 232 review is active and is “still under the final stages of review within the administration.”

U.S. Raw Steel Production Up 2.9%

Per data released in the American Iron and Steel Institute’s weekly report, U.S. raw steel production in the year to date is up 2.9% compared with the same time frame in 2016.

Adjusted year-to-date production through Aug. 12 was 55,650,000 net tons, up 2.9 percent from the 54,106,000 net tons during the same period last year, according to the report.

For the week ending Aug. 12, production was up 1% from the week ending Aug. 5, up to 1,780,000 net tons from 1,762,000 net tons the previous week.

Copper, Steel Output Up, Zinc Output Down in Kazakhstan

Output of copper and steel rose significantly from January to July in Kazakhstan compared with the same time frame in 2016, according to Reuters.

Copper output rose 5.7% and steel output rose 10.1% for the first seven months of the calendar year.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

Meanwhile, zinc output dropped 0.9%.

Our August MMI report is in the books, and it paints a positive picture for a wide range of metals.

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

In our June MMI, four sub-indexes posted no movement. The July MMI? Only one stood pat.

Our August MMI, meanwhile, painted a different picture.

Nine of the 10 sub-indexes posted positive movement, with the remaining sub-index (GOES) dropping.

It was a strong month for the Renewables MMI, which grew 6.9% to hit 77. The Raw Steel MMI rose 5.6% to hit 75.

As Irene Martinez Canorea wrote Friday, there’s a bullish outlook behind metals like aluminum, copper and zinc these days. Can they continue that momentum throughout the rest of the calendar year? That remains to be seen, but they’ve certainly been on an uptrend.

Speaking of aluminum, the U.S. Department of Commerce last week made a preliminary determination in a countervailing duty investigation of Chinese aluminum foil, declaring that the products are unfairly benefiting from Chinese government subsidies. The decision was met with applause from the U.S. aluminum industry, particularly the Aluminum Association.

“The association and its foil-producing members are very pleased with the Commerce Department’s finding and we greatly appreciate Secretary Ross’s leadership in enforcing U.S. trade laws to combat unfair practices,” said Heidi Brock, President and CEO of the Aluminum Association, in a prepared statement.

What could come of the investigation? Duties as high as 81% could be slapped on Chinese aluminum foil.

In other investigations, the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 investigations of steel and aluminum imports remain pending. The investigations don’t appear to be at the forefront of the Trump administration’s agenda right now. Furthermore, the deadlines for Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to present President Donald Trump with policy recommendations don’t hit until January.

Of course, things can change quickly — but, for now, a final ruling on trade policy regarding steel and aluminum imports possibly won’t materialize for a while.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

You can read about all of the above and much more in our August MMI report, which you can download below.

gui yong nian/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, steel prices in China are up and the government is looking to strike a balance, German company Thyssenkrupp isn’t in a rush to forge a merger with the European business of India’s Tata Steel and China responds to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s ruling this week regarding Chinese aluminum foil, which the DOC determined was being unfairly subsidized by the government.

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

Steel Prices On the Way Up in China

Rising steel prices have Beijing looking for ways to adapt, according to a CNBC report.

On the heels of efforts to cut excess Chinese steel production, prices are rising — but the government is looking to strike a balance.

“For Beijing, it’s a tough situation: tackle steel overcapacity, rebalance economic growth, control environmental pollution and also manage market stability — especially in advance of a leadership shuffle due in the fall,” CNBC’s Sophia Yan writes.

No Rush to Merge, Thyssenkrupp CFO Says

Talks of a merger between the European businesses of Thyssenkrupp and India’s Tata Steel have hung around since last year.

They even seemed to get a boost in light of news reported yesterday about Tata’s plans to separate its British pension scheme from its businesses.

Despite that step, Thyssenkrupp CFO Guido Kerkhoff says not so fast.

Kerkhoff told reporters Thursday that while they prefer a “fast solution” in potential merger talks, quality comes first.

China Warns U.S. After DOC’s Aluminum Foil Ruling

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. aluminum industry applauded the Department of Commerce’s preliminary determination Tuesday regarding Chinese aluminum foil.

Also unsurprisingly, China had something to say about it, too.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce wrote in a statement on its website that the DOC’s claims were “without foundation” and urged the U.S. to “act cautiously and make a fair decision to avoid any negative impact on the normal economic and trade exchanges between China and the U.S.”

On Tuesday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the findings of the countervailing duties investigation, declaring that Chinese exporters of aluminum foil received countervailing subsidies of 16.56 to 80.97 percent. As a result, the U.S. could impose duties of up to 81 percent on Chinese foil in return.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

Meanwhile, the outcome of the Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports, however, remains pending.

Global trade developments with a dose of healthy demand appear to be setting the stage for grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES) price movements for H2.

Although the big story in the U.S. involves Section 232 developments, GOES prices globally are increasing because of several measures in both China and Europe.

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

According to a recent TEX Report, Japanese mills received a $100/metric ton increase for GOES shipments to India and Southeast Asia. And, because of an anti-dumping order in China, Baoshan has raised its prices six times this year.

Curiously, the European Union implemented a system by which a “price floor” has been established for GOES. This price, according to TEX Report, is higher than the international GOES price. Europe can expect to see higher-priced imports as a result.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Commerce has not released any recommendations on the Section 232 investigation. Although GOES producer AK Steel — along with other steel producers —  has lobbied hard for some sort of import curb, the fact that no recommendations have been made suggests the DOC acknowledges that the Section 232 investigation contains a number of complexities across a broad range of stakeholders that have all weighed in on the findings.

The Section 232 investigation, to some extent, has slowed down annual negotiating cycles for manufacturing organizations, as several recently told MetalMiner at our 2018 Budgeting and Forecasting workshop.

Producers had likely hoped for the release of the findings to take their price cues. MetalMiner believes that without the release of the report, producers will start considering 2018 contracts in September, similar to normal annual contract cycles.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

Exact GOES Coil Price This Month

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

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

This morning in metals news, the still-pending Section 232 investigations into steel and aluminum imports, raw steel production is up 2.7% in the U.S. year-over-year and aluminum has reached its highest point in 2.5 years.

Uncertainty Growing in Aluminum Market

It’s not exactly surprising that some in the aluminum and steel industries are feeling anxious about the Section 232 investigations, still unresolved, initiated by the Trump administration in April.

According to a report in Platts, that’s exactly how some are feeling on the aluminum side. Not only that, the uncertainty is making what was already considered a volatile aluminum market even more volatile.

Another potential consequence of the investigation? The cost of downstream products could go up, according to industry sources cited by Platts.

Raw Steel Production Down From Previous Week, Up For the Year

The American Iron and Steel Institute released its weekly raw steel production data on Monday, and the numbers are both up and down.

For the week ending Aug. 5, production was down 0.4% from the previous week ending July 29. Production for the week ending Aug. 5 amounted to 1,762,000 tons.

Production for the year to date, however, was up 2.7%, with 53,870,000 tons produced through Aug. 5 this year.

Aluminum Heats Up

The durable metal reached a 2.5-year high Tuesday on news of Chinese supply cuts and signs of strong Chinese demand, Reuters reported.

According to the report, 3.21 million tons of production will be shut down in China’s Shandong province.

LME aluminum eclipsed the $2,000/ton mark on Tuesday, reaching as high as $2,007 — the highest since December 2014, according to Reuters.

Zerophoto/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, Indian steel company JSW Steel Ltd. could partner with a Japanese firm to acquire distressed Indian companies, steel import permit applications fell 12.3% in the U.S. last month and Chinese aluminum capacity cuts are sending prices up.

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

Steel Tycoon Sajjan Jindal Open to Partnership with JFE

A deal might be in the works between Indian and Japanese companies.

Bloomberg reported Sajjan Jindal and his JSW Steel Ltd. would be open to investment from the Japanese firm JFE Holdings Inc., per JSW Joint Managing Director Seshagiri Rao. According to the report, JSW is looking to acquire distressed companies in India.

With plants in southern and western India, JSW is looking to expand into the eastern half of the country.

Steel Imports Permit Applications Fall in July

According to the Commerce Department’s most recent Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) data, steel import permit applications fell 12.3% in July compared with the previous month.

According to a release from the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), in July the largest finished steel import permit applications for offshore countries were for: South Korea (333,000 net tons, down 14% from June preliminary), Turkey (211,000 net tons, down 36%), Japan (149,000 net tons, up 20%), Germany (144,000 net tons, up 24%) and Taiwan (136,000 net tons, down 17%).

Through the first seven months of 2017, the largest offshore suppliers were South Korea (2,261,000 net tons, down 5% from the same period in 2016), Turkey (1,681,000 net tons, up 11%) and Japan (935,000 net tons, down 12%).

Chinese Capacity Cuts Lead to Rising Aluminum Prices

The longevity of the positive effects of China’s capacity cuts has been debated here and elsewhere. In some cases, capacity cuts have simply given way to new capacity elsewhere, effectively negating the initial cuts’ support of aluminum prices.

For now, however, the most recent round of aluminum capacity cuts in China has been good news for the metal’s price, which has risen in recent days.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

According to Reuters, China is “forcing the suspension of aluminum plants that have not obtained proper permits to build or expand, or that have not met strict environmental standards.”

According to Reuters, shares of Aluminium Corp of China rose 47 percent since the start of July. Shares in Shenzhen-listed Yunnan Aluminium rose even more, by a whopping 55 percent.

gui yong nian/Adobe Stock

Talk of tariffs stemming from the Trump administration’s Section 232 investigations of steel and aluminum imports has seemingly softened over the last couple of weeks, but the overall trade dynamic between the to countries remains tense.

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

First, President Trump told the Wall Street Journal last week that “we don’t want to do it at this moment” in reference to trade actions on steel imports resulting from the administration’s Section 232 investigation.

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the Secretary of Commerce authority to conduct comprehensive investigations to determine the effects of imports of any article on national security. The investigations were announced open in April. By law, the investigation must be concluded, including a submitted report, within 270 days of its opening.

More recently, a shift toward a negotiated agreement seems to be gaining favor. According to Inside U.S. Trade ($), Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross suggested “voluntary” agreements, according to House Ways & Means Committee members who met with Ross on July 27.

However, in terms of getting any additional clarity on what the administration plans to do, the committee members left the July 27 briefing without much of that.

“I don’t think that there was a lot of clarification,” Richard Neal (D-MA) told Inside U.S. Trade.
The deadlines for the Section 232 investigations are well down the road (not until January), but, until then, talk is likely to continue about what the administration will or won’t do, in addition to what other relevant parties could do in retaliation.
In similar news, the administration and many in the U.S. steel industry have pointed to China’s excess capacity as the major problem for the domestic industry, leading to suggestions of tariffs or quotas targeting China (but also affecting other steel-producing countries).
Talk of trade remedies against China, however, hasn’t just been limited to steel and aluminum.
Bloomberg reported earlier today that the Trump administration could go after China for perceived intellectual property violations.
According to the Bloomberg report, the administration is considering invoking another article — Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.
In essence, Section 301 is the mechanism by which the U.S. can respond to countries in violation of trade agreements or engaging in unfair trade practices. The move would further increase tensions between the U.S. and China, particularly in light of Trump’s admonishments of China for not doing enough to rein in North Korea.