Author Archives: Fouad Egbaria

The Renewables Monthly Metals Index (MMI) slipped by 2.5% for this month’s reading.

(Editor’s note: This report also includes the MMI for grain-oriented electrical steel, or GOES.)

Keep up with MetalMiner’s latest analysis of metals markets in the MetalMiner weekly newsletter. 

Biden looks to Defense Production Act to boost domestic production

As we noted in the Rare Earths MMI report, President Joe Biden recently called upon a provision of the Defense Production Act to boost domestic production of materials needed for large-capacity batteries and infrastructure.

The move comes over a year after the president’s executive order on supply chains. In that order, Biden called for 100-day reviews of critical U.S. supply chains. The president specifically targeted semiconductors, high-capacity batteries, critical minerals and pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, in his use of the Cold War-era Defense Production Act, the president seeks to boost domestic production of important battery materials.

“The United States depends on unreliable foreign sources for many of the strategic and critical materials necessary for the clean energy transition — such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese for large-capacity batteries,” a March 31 memo from the White House states. “Demand for such materials is projected to increase exponentially as the world transitions to a clean energy economy.”

In the order, Biden calls on the secretary of defense to “create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore sustainable and responsible domestic production capabilities of such strategic and critical materials by supporting feasibility studies for mature mining, beneficiation, and value-added processing projects.”

Furthermore, the secretary will also consult with other agency heads to survey the domestic industrial base “for the mining, beneficiation, and value-added processing of strategic and critical materials for the production of large-capacity batteries for the automotive, e-mobility, and stationary storage sectors.”

The MetalMiner Monthly Metal Outlook (MMO) report includes coverage of steel plate, which is included in the Renewables MMI basket of metals. 

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The Global Precious Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell by 1.4% for this month’s index reading, as gold prices retraced after peaking in early March.

The MetalMiner Insights platform features a full suite of precious metals prices. 

Gold, silver prices retrace

After peaking in early March, gold prices have retraced.

The U.S. gold bullion price jumped to nearly $2,040 per ounce March 8, nearly two weeks after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

As we noted last month, COMEX announced it would suspend six Russian gold and silver producers.

“Russia is a significant gold producer but still in single-digit percentages globally,” MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns explained last month. “Much more significant is palladium, where they produce 40% of global supply, and platinum, which is less but still very significant. The implications for the catalyst markets are real.”

Since the March peak, prices retraced down to around $1,920 per ounce early this week.

Meanwhile, silver prices peaked at $26.40 per ounce in March. Since then, they retraced down to $24.54 per ounce earlier this week.

Palladium prices also retrace

Elsewhere in the precious metals basket, palladium prices have also come back down after surging earlier in March.

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The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell 11.3% for this month’s reading.

Keep an eye out for the full MMI report download later this week. 

Iluka approves new refinery

Australian firm Iluka Resources this week announced it had approved a fully integrated refinery for rare earth oxides.

The refinery will be at Eneabba, Western Australia.

“The refinery will be capable of processing rare earth feedstocks sourced from both Iluka’s portfolio and from a range of potential third party concentrate suppliers,” Iluka said in a release.

The company said it agreed to move forward after conducting a feasibility study. In addition, it reached a risk sharing agreement with the Australian government.

The refinery will produce “high value rare earth oxides” like neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium.

“These are critical inputs across a range of industries and technologies including electric vehicles, sustainable energy, advanced electronics, medical and defence applications,” the company said.

Furthermore, the refinery will have capacity of 17,500 metric tons per year of rare earth oxides. Construction on the refinery will begin the second half of 2022. The company expects to begin production from the site in 2025.

The MetalMiner weekly newsletter features news and analysis to keep readers up to date on everything going on in the world of metals. 

Biden uses Defense Production Act to boost mining

The U.S. continues to seek alternative rare earth sourcing options to China. China, of course, continues to maintain a dominant presence in the global rare earths mining and processing sectors.

Rare earths, while not actually rare, are critical for use in everything from consumer electronics to green energy installations.

Elsewhere, President Joe Biden is using the Defense Production Act of 1950 to boost domestic mining.

“It is the policy of my Administration that ensuring a robust, resilient, sustainable, and environmentally responsible domestic industrial base to meet the requirements of the clean energy economy, such as the production of large-capacity batteries, is essential to our national security and the development and preservation of domestic critical infrastructure,” the president said in a March 31 memo.

“The United States depends on unreliable foreign sources for many of the strategic and critical materials necessary for the clean energy transition — such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese for large-capacity batteries.  Demand for such materials is projected to increase exponentially as the world transitions to a clean energy economy.”

Using Section 303 of the Cold War-era legislation, the secretary of defense will “create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore sustainable and responsible domestic production capabilities of such strategic and critical materials by supporting feasibility studies for mature mining, beneficiation, and value-added processing projects.”

Furthermore, the memo states that expanding domestic production for these critical materials is necessary to “avert an industrial resource or critical technology item shortfall that would severely impair the national defense capability.” As such, the president waived certain requirements under Section 303(a)(1)-(a)(6) to aid the expansion of production.

Actual metals prices and trends

The Chinese neodymium oxide price fell 17% month over month to $158,502 per metric ton as of April 1. Meanwhile, terbium oxide fell 13.6% to $2,074 per kilogram.

Praseodymium oxide fell 11.5% to $150,617 per metric ton. Lastly, dysprosium oxide fell 15% to $419 per kilogram.

The Construction Monthly Metals Index (MMI) picked up by 6.0% for this month’s reading, as rising metal prices push up the cost of doing business in the construction sector.

Construction costs rise with metal prices

As MetalMiner’s Don Hauser (VP, business solutions) explained during a recent ROTH Capital webinar, steel buyers should keep an eye on import trends.

U.S. steel prices had retraced downward from an October peak. However, upward price momentum has renewed for steel.

“If you look at when steel prices peaked … the steel market peaked in October and you can see in November is when everything started hitting the shores and being delivered,” he said.

Imports remained high in November, December and January. Meanwhile, imports declined by 23%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

“If you look at when steel prices peaked … the steel market peaked in October and you can see in November is when everything started hitting the shores and being delivered,” he said.

Hauser added that steel market dynamics can have far-reaching impacts.

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The Automotive Monthly Metals Index (MMI) increased by 8.1%, as palladium prices surged in the early part of the month and renewed COVID-related restrictions in China impacted automotive operations.

COVID restrictions in China curb production

While many parts of the world have started to roll back COVID-related restrictions, a resurgence of cases in parts of China has led Beijing to ramp up mitigation efforts.

In keeping with its zero-COVID policy aims, the cities of Changchun and Shenzhen have shut down in response to a surge in COVID cases.

MetalMiner covered the shutdowns in the weekly newsletter this week.

“China announced additional COVID-related lockdowns, in particular the closure of half of Shanghai now (with the other half to close April 1),” MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman and Don Hauser, vice president, business solutions, explained. “In addition, the country has shut down manufacturing in Shenzhen and the city of Changchun. Tesla announced it would shut down for four days in Shanghai. Lockdowns slow economic growth, as exports will slow (despite ports remaining open).

“A slow-growing China with lockdowns has forced the oil price lower. When oil prices fall, so do metal prices — that, in fact, is what we see now.”

Make sure to keep up to date with metals commentary and analysis from the MetalMiner team in the weekly newsletter.

The shutdowns impacted a number of automakers operating there, including Toyota and Volkswagen.

Palladium prices surge in early March

As we continue to track the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war, one metal we’ve focused on is palladium.

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As we continue to analyze current market factors and their impacts on nickel prices, copper prices and other key metal prices for automotive production, today we’ll focus on an announced addition to the domestic automotive manufacturing scene.

metal prices

Petr Ciz/Adobe Stock

A new automotive player will be coming to the U.S. soon, as Vietnamese automaker VinFast this week announced plans to build a new electric vehicle manufacturing center in North Carolina.

For metal buyers in the automotive sector, keep an eye out for the April 2022 Automotive MMI report next week. The full March 2022 MMI report — featuring 10 metal and industry subindexes, including automotive — is available for download

EV manufacturing center coming to North Carolina

Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Vietnam, VinFast said it plans to build an 800-hectare manufacturing center in North Carolina. The firm expects construction to begin this year after it acquires a construction permit.

Furthermore, the automaker expects to begin production in 2024.

According to VinFast, the center will feature three areas for:

  • Production and assembly of electric cars and buses
  • Electric vehicle battery production
  • “Ancillary industries” for suppliers

Capacity during the first phase of construction is expected to be 150,000 vehicles per year, the automaker said.

“VinFast has established global operations in the US, Canada, Germany, France and the Netherlands,” the firm said. “The company currently provides an ecosystem of EV products in its home country of Vietnam, including e-scooters, electric buses and electric cars, charging station system and green energy solutions.”

Made in America

The U.S. Department of Commerce on Thursday hailed the announcement of the “multi-billion dollar investment.”

The DOC claimed the center will create more than 7,000 jobs and “fuel American efforts to combat the climate crisis.”

“EVs are the future of auto manufacturing; the only question is whether we want EVs and their components made here in America or somewhere else,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a release.

According to a 2021 report by the International Council on Clean Transportation, the U.S. is the world’s third-largest EV manufacturer. China and Europe as a bloc are ahead of the U.S. in EV production.

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During a recent ROTH Capital Partners webinar session, MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman and Don Hauser, vice president of business solutions, covered a wide range of metals-related topics, from the recent LME nickel debacle to potential metal price drivers to steel imports and steel prices.

If you missed it, register to receive a recording of the webinar and get all of Reisman and Hauser’s insights on metals markets from the hourlong session.

US steel imports plunge in February

steel shipment

Hor/Adobe Stock

On the last point, Hauser took a look at February’s decline in steel imports and the landscape for steel prices.

According to a recent report by the American Iron and Steel Institute, U.S. steel imports declined by 23% from January to February. The U.S. imported 2.34 million net tons of steel in February, according to AISI. That compares with 3.04 million net tons of steel imports in January.

By product, the U.S. saw a jump in imports of some products, including rebar, heavy structural shapes and line pipe, according to Census Bureau data. Rebar imports reached 139,171 tons in February, up 96% from January.

Hauser commented on the import numbers during the webinar session.

“If you look at when steel prices peaked … the steel market peaked in October and you can see in November is when everything started hitting the shores and being delivered,” he said.

Imports remained high in November, December and January, as steel prices began to decline.

Steel prices in other countries increased, Hauser noted, in part as a result of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. The MetalMiner team will break down the war’s impact on commodities during a webinar session at 11:00 a.m. Central Time, Wednesday, March 30.

However, steel prices have also been on the rise in other countries, particularly in Asia, Hauser noted.

“Steel is really kind of liquid,” Hauser explained. “It moves around so it’s not necessarily something happens in one place and it only affects that market. … You’re seeing that right now, prices were falling down to close to $1,000 a ton. Now they’re ramping back up.”

The hot rolled coil steel price closed last week at $1,312 per short ton, according to MetalMiner Insights data. That price is up over 16% month over month.

Meanwhile, cold rolled coil closed at $1,721 per short ton, or up nearly 7% month over month.

The MetalMiner weekly newsletter contains further analysis of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on metals markets, including steel prices.

Russia-Ukraine impact

Hauser also put the war’s impact into further context, noting the destruction of steel mills and sanctions are bringing steel prices upward in Europe.

“That’s really affecting the Europe imports,” he said. “Not so much Russia direct, although that does have some impact. There is some steel that was coming Russia direct to the U.S. NLMK is a decent-sized mill in the U.S., and that’s Russian-owned. They bring Russian slabs in — that’s off.”

The MetalMiner team will break down the impact of the war on metals markets even further this week during the aforementioned webinar on Wednesday, March 30

It’s been a busy month for MetalMiner experts talking metal prices, volatility and much more over the airwaves.

metal prices

Petr Ciz/Adobe Stock

Earlier this month, MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman chatted with BNN Bloomberg about the recent LME nickel crisis, gold prices and much more.

This week, Stuart Burns, MetalMiner co-founder and editor-at-large, checked in with BNN Bloomberg to chat about a number of metal-related issues, including:

  • Base metal prices and volatility
  • The impact of a decline in Chinese demand
  • The Russia-Ukraine war’s impact on aluminum prices

For further analysis of the Russia-Ukraine war’s impact on commodities and much more, the MetalMiner team is hosting a webinar session on the issue today at 11:00 a.m. Central Time.

If you haven’t already, there’s still time to register for the 30-minute webinar session. 

Metal prices, volatility and commodity ‘supercycles’

MetalMiner has delved into the commodity supercycle dialogue before. As of now, the MetalMiner team remains skeptical about the idea of a commodity supercycle based on the current landscape.

“There are some, like Goldman Sachs, that are pushing the supercycle story,” Burns said on BNN Bloomberg this week. “We’re a little contrarian to that. We do see inflationary issues around base metal prices — EVs, renewables and so on.”

However, some factors are also working in the other direction.

“We see issues around the Fed’s reaction to inflation. We see reasonable levels of material supply in the market going forward that we don’t believe that we’re into a supercycle as such.”

With that said, Burns said markets are in a period of volatility and high prices in the short to medium term.

The MetalMiner team will also address trends in metal prices, volatility and the many factors driving prices in the upcoming Monthly Metal Outlook report (available to subscribers on the first weekday of each month). 

Supply issues persist

Inventory levels have plunged on the exchanges, Burns noted. However, that comes on the back of a year of “global logistics chaos.”

Furthermore, a robust bounceback from the COVID-19 pandemic has also boosted demand around the world.

“Those two dynamics have drawn down inventory levels around the world and have created the inflationary environment that we’re seeing in base metals at the moment,” Burns explained.

However, Burns said he does see those issues working their way through the global economy.

“They’re not something that’s going to be there 5-10 years from now,” he added. “They’re contributing to inflationary prices for the next 12 months, possibly 18, but not a long-term supercycle.”

The above is a brief snippet of the insights Burns shared this week. You can find the full video of his BNN Bloomberg interview below.

The last month has been a frenetic one in the world of metals and metal prices.

metal prices

Petr Ciz/Adobe Stock

In recent weeks, we’ve covered the ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reviewed the fallout of the London Metal Exchange’s decision to suspend nickel trading and covered developments spanning metal markets in our March 2022 Monthly Metal Index (MMI) report.

Metal prices, volatility and more: MetalMiner CEO talks to BNN Bloomberg

With that in mind, MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman chatted with BNN Bloomberg this week about all of the above and much more, including the trajectory of the gold price and the LME’s handling of the recent nickel price boom.

Reisman also reviewed other metal prices, including the aluminum market, touching on the ingot versus the semis markets. The latter, she notes, has caused more grief for industrial companies. (For more aluminum, nickel and gold analysis — and much more — check out the March 2022 MMI report.)

“Besides the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia is a big semi-finished aluminum producer,” Reisman told BNN Bloomberg. “Now you’ve got sanctions on Russia from the E.U., you’ve got sanctions from the U.K.”

Check out MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman’s interview with BNN Bloomberg below:

Reisman and the rest of the analyst team offer similar insights in the MetalMiner weekly newsletter. In addition, for further analysis of the Russia-Ukraine war, the MetalMiner team will break it all down during its Wednesday, March 30 webinar

The Global Precious Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose by 2.9% for this month’s value, as gold prices picked up amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

The March 2022 MMI report, featuring all 10 MMI indexes, will be available for download later today. 

Gold prices rise

February proved a difficult month for stocks, as the S&P 500 fell over 5% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6%.

In times of volatility, investors often flock to safe-haven assets, including gold. On top of historic levels of inflation — at 7.9%, the highest in over 40 years — the Russian invasion of Ukraine introduced another jolt of volatility to markets.

The U.S. gold price opened February at just over $1,800 per ounce before rising through the rest of the month.

Gold prices have continued to surge in March. The price reached $1,980 per ounce to close last week, marking an 8.39% month-over-month rise.

U.S. gold price chart

U.S. gold prices. Source: MetalMiner Insights

COMEX suspends Russian producers

However, on March 7, COMEX announced it would suspend the “approved status for warranting and delivery” for several Russian gold and silver companies, including:

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