Author Archives: The MetalMiner Team

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President Donald Trump announced today the removal of the U.S.’s Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum with respect to NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico.

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The tariffs had remained in place since June 1, 2018, when temporary exemptions for Canada, Mexico and the E.U. were allowed to expire.

Trade officials from the three countries had expressed optimism earlier this week that a deal was near to remove the 25% steel tariff and 10% aluminum tariff.

The move marks a major step toward approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), meant as the successor to NAFTA.

“I’m pleased to announce that we’ve just reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico and we’ll be selling our products into those countries without the imposition of tariffs, or major tariffs,” Trump told the National Association of Realtors, as reported by USA Today. “Big difference.”

President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the USMCA during the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires late last year. However the three countries’ legislatures must ratify the deal before it can go into effect.

As such, both Mexico and Canada in recent months have indicated that they would be unlikely to approve a deal without removal of the tariffs. Likewise, members of the U.S. Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, also indicated a deal would not be approved unless the tariffs are removed vis-a-vis imports of steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, lauded the move.

“Canada and Mexico are strong allies and have taken significant steps to assure that trade-distorting and subsidized steel and aluminum from third countries will not surge into the U.S. market,” Brady said.

“With this crucial issue resolved, now is the time for Congress to advance USMCA – delay means the United States continues to lose out on more jobs, more customers for Made-in-America goods, and a stronger economy.  Congress should take up this updated and modernized agreement, which will produce strong wins for America.”

David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., hailed the agreement to remove the tariffs.

“This is a victory for both our countries and our highly integrated steel and aluminum industries,” he said in a tweet Friday.

According to a joint statement issued by Canada and the United States, in addition to removal of the tariffs the countries will implement measures to “prevent the importation of aluminum and steel that is unfairly subsidized and/or sold at dumped prices” and “prevent the transshipment of aluminum and steel made outside of Canada or the United States to the other country.”

The joint statement also addresses situations in which imports levels surge.: “In the event that imports of aluminum or steel products surge meaningfully beyond historic volumes of trade over a period of time, with consideration of market share, the importing country may request consultations with the exporting country. After such consultations, the importing party may impose duties of 25 percent for steel and 10 percent for aluminum in respect to the individual product(s) where the surge took place (on the basis of the individual product categories set forth in the attached chart). If the importing party takes such action, the exporting country agrees to retaliate only in the affected sector (i.e., aluminum and aluminum-containing products or steel).”

Canada will also rescind retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products imposed last summer. In addition to a variety of steel and aluminum products, the list of items targeted for retaliatory duties included coffee, yogurt and orange juice.

From the Analysts: Price Impacts of Removal of Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Tariffs for Canada and Mexico

With the removal of tariffs on imports of aluminum from Canada and Mexico, announced today by the U.S. government, MetalMiner anticipates the aluminum U.S. Midwest Premium may finally drop from the current level of around $0.19 per pound due to the easing of restrictions on the flow of prime material cross-border.

Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(™)

As of now, the LME aluminum price does not appear to show any impact from the news, with the price still sitting close to yesterday’s closing value.

Source: FastMarkets

Given the lack of major producers of semi-finished materials in both Mexico and Canada, MetalMiner does not anticipate a flood of materials to hit the U.S. market; therefore, buying organizations can continue to expect tightness for semi-finished aluminum commercial grade sheet and coil. Buying organizations will likely not see large price drops for semi-finished sheet and coil products.

On the other hand, given that the 25% tariff on steel effectively deterred imports of that metal to the U.S., MetalMiner does expect to see an impact on steel prices as imports of steel increase.

Canada serves as the largest exporter of flat rolled steel products, as well as long products, with Mexico taking the No. 3 position. For tubular products, Canada and Mexico take the No. 2 and 3 positions. For stainless steel, Mexico serves as the fourth-largest exporter to the U.S. and Canada does not export stainless to the U.S. in a major way.

MetalMiner’s Annual Outlook provides 2019 buying strategies for carbon steel

MetalMiner does not expect to see any major changes in domestic stainless steel prices, as most of the global suppliers of stainless steel still face the 25% Section 232 tariff.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) hot-rolled coil (HRC) steel futures market finally demonstrated increased liquidity during 2018, about five years following its introduction in February 2014.

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Both volume of trading and open interest numbers showed improvement during 2018, as evidenced by increasing trade volumes throughout the year. Additionally, the London Metal Exchange (LME) introduced a new Hot Roil Coil contract.

As a result, there’s been quite a bit of excitement and coverage lately of the HRC futures market — is it warranted?

Looking at Chart 1, since January 2018 or so, the CME HRC finally experienced an uptick in regular daily trading volumes, as demonstrated by the bars along the bottom of this daily settlement price chart.

Chart 1: Trade volumes are increasing, finally hitting a regular stride during 2018.
Source: Quandl.com

The next chart also shows a positive sign for CME HRC futures. Open interest shown by the red line in the chart continues to trend upward, charted along with the daily settle price.

Chart 2: Open interest in CME HRC futures continues to increase.
Source: Quandl.com

Have HRC Prices Moved Similarly to Other Steel Price Indexes?

Taking a full look back at prices of CME HRC against our own MetalMiner IndX(™) price tracking since the inception of the trading product, we see only small amounts of variability between historical MetalMiner IndX(™) HRC prices and CME HRC prices.

Chart 3: The MetalMiner IndX(™) U.S. HRC price versus the CME HRC close of day price, February 2014 to February 2019.
Source: MetalMiner IndX(™) and Fastmarkets

Taking a closer look, the next chart focuses on the year 2014 from the CME HRC’s inception date.

As shown in the first couple of charts, the U.S. HRC price was fairly stable around 2014. Comparatively speaking, the CME HRC price was less stable (although it may have offered a speculative opportunity, as it tended to fall faster than actual prices).

Chart 4: The MetalMiner IndX(™) U.S. HRC price versus the CME HRC close of day price, 2014.
Source: MetalMiner IndX(™) and Fastmarkets

Generally speaking, volatility increased in 2015, as the price dropped into December 2015. Thereafter, the price became more prone to fluctuations, but still traded mostly sideways in a band around the earlier price highs from 2013 and never returned to quite as low a price as it hit in 2015.

In early 2018, the price of HRC increased. Actual prices tracked by MetalMiner’s IndX(™)  seemed less volatile than CME HRC prices. However, prices trended very similarly.

Chart 5: MetalMiner’s U.S. HRC price versus the CME HRC close of day price, 2018.
Source: MetalMiner IndX(™) and Fastmarkets

What Does This Mean for Industrial Buyers?

The CME HRC futures liquidity amped up during 2018, the product’s fifth year on the market.

Volume and open interest increased. CME steel prices tended to follow a fairly stable trajectory, similar to what the major indexes report (e.g. CRU, TSI, Platts, etc).

Furthermore, large organizations with significant planning needs that buy in sizable volumes may benefit from the arbitrage play these contracts allow, as well as the overall benefits of using hedging instruments to lock in margins.

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Thought you had the China supply risks covered? More than one supplier, multiple logistics options, natural disaster contingency planning… yep? Try this: employee arrest and detention.

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Here’s What Happened

As we reported soon after it happened last week, the Bureau of Consular Affairs under the U.S. Department of State has issued a warning of an increased risk of arbitrary arrest and detention when U.S. citizens, particularly those of dual nationality, come to leave China. According to the notice, Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans.’ The post states China uses exit bans coercively:

  1. “To compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations,
  2. To lure individuals back to China from abroad, and
  3. To aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.”

According to the notice, U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to “state security.”

Why It Happened

Sounds serious, doesn’t it? But to be fair, the current notice is largely a repeat of one issued the same time last year and China retains a Level 2 caution, according to U.S. authorities — meaning two out of four travelers should “exercise increased caution” when in the country. This is a warning that has at times applied to parts of Europe due to a perceived risk from terrorism.

According to Conde Nast Traveler, the advisory follows high-profile cases in December in which two Canadian businessmen, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, were detained for unspecified reasons, citing a Reuters report. Both Kovrig and Spavor remain in detention in China and are awaiting trial, with the U.S. and Canada calling for their release. In total, some 13 Canadians have been detained of late in moves said to be linked to the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Some put the restatement of the travel advisory down to increased trade tensions between the U.S. and China following President Trump’s trade war, but while such issues don’t help, the reality is China has always imposed strict censorship laws and still rigidly controls free speech. It uses such laws in situations that Western societies find arbitrary and unrelated, but the Chinese no doubt brought in the laws with the express intention of giving them a catch-all legal framework to bring leverage if they felt an individual, company or even country was not acting in China’s best interests.

What It Means for Metal Buyers

Buying organizations should, from time to time, be reminded that China is not a benign democracy, but an autocratic single-party state controlled by an increasingly powerful centrist elite.

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The West’s view that China would become progressively more liberal and democratic over time has proved to be fundamentally flawed — and with that realization, our perception of risk for employees and contractors we send or employ there should change too.

The December Monthly Metals Index (MMI) report is in the books.

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While a few sub-indexes saw some gains from November to December — Copper, Global Precious Metals and Automotive MMIs, among them — the real story seemed to be the decline in Raw Steels and Stainless MMIs as we head into the new year.

Several highlights from this month’s report:

  • U.S.-China trade relations still have outsize influence on what’s happening in metals and commodities markets. The U.S. has agreed to hold off on a scheduled tariff hike — from 10% to 25% as of Jan. 1 on $200 billion worth of tariffs imposed in September — as the two parties have launched a 90-day negotiating period.
  • One of the biggest losers was the Raw Steels MMI, dropping 4.6% for the month. The recent slowdown in domestic steel price momentum led to the decline. Domestic steel prices recently decreased sharply on the back of slower demand and softer Chinese prices.
  • LME nickel prices traded lower in November, continuing the six-month downtrend that started back in June 2018, and driving the Stainless MMI down for the month of December.

MetalMiner’s Annual Outlook provides 2019 buying strategies for carbon steel

Read about all of the above and much more by downloading the December 2018 MMI Report below:

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Steel Market Update’s 2017 Steel Summit kicked off in Atlanta this week and the topic on everyone’s minds was Hurricane Harvey and the far-reaching impact it will have on the Houston region.

The humanitarian impact of Harvey cannot be overstated, but the economic impact on Houston, an industrial hub in the southern United States, will be felt in both the short- and long-term, with freight transportation at a virtual standstill (Port Houston operations resumed today, according to an alert on the Port Houston website).

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According to SMU, FTR Transportation Intelligence reports up to 10% of U.S. truck capacity will be disrupted in the next two weeks.

“Look for spot prices to jump over the next several weeks with very strong effects in Texas and the South Central region, Noel Perry, partner at FTR, told SMU. “Spot pricing was already up strong, in double-digit territory. Market participants could easily add 5 percentage points to those numbers.”

Gas Prices Surge

In response to fuel supply disruptions from Hurricane Harvey, average national gasoline prices grew to $2.37 per gallon earlier this week, and continued to surge to $2.51 Friday morning, according to the AAA website.

“It’s still really early to tell what this is going to mean for long-term supply,” Denton Cinquegrana, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, told SMU. “If some of these refineries are flooded, it’s going to take weeks to get the water out of there and then get into damage assessment.”

How will steel and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth steel price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

Nickel prices maintained near nine-month highs mid-week, due in part to Chinese stainless steel mill demand and decreased supplies from the Philippines, a top exporter of ore.

According to a report from Reuters, nickel prices peaked earlier in the week to $11,885 a ton, its highest point since November 2016. Year-over-year, nickel prices are up more than 15%.

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“Stainless steel demand in China and elsewhere has surprised on the upside and talk about nickel consumption in lithium-ion batteries has helped,” Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar told the news source.

“Supplies have been under stress,” Bhar added. “The Philippines exported less for various reasons, including monsoon rains, mine inspections and shutdowns. Some NPI (nickel pig iron) capacity has been shut in China because of environmental inspections.”

Nickel Lagging Behind in the Bull Run

Our own Irene Martinez Canorea recently wrote that nickel, along with tin and lead, are more reticent to join the bull rush with aluminum, copper and zinc.

She writes: “Even though the industrial metal outlook remains bullish, lead and tin seem to be behaving on their own terms. Buying organizations will want to pay careful attention to trading volumes in the coming month.”

How will nickel and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth nickel price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

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The International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) released its August report, which found the global market for refined zinc metal was in deficit during the first half of the year. Total reported inventories declined over that time, as well.

Global production from zinc mines grew 5.4% compared to the first half of last year, mostly due to a boost in output from Peru, India and Eritrea.

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Furthermore, zinc production suffered in places like Canada, Thailand, Peru and the Republic of Korea, leading to an overall worldwide increase of just 0.5% after factoring in growth in places like France, Brazil and India.

The ILZSG report stated: “Despite a decrease in Chinese apparent demand for refined zinc metal of 2.1%, global usage rose by a marginal 0.6%. This was mainly due to increases in the United States and Taiwan (China).”

Gauging the Zinc Price Ceiling

Our own Fouad Egbaria wrote just last week that zinc has really hit its stride, recently hitting its highest price point in more than a decade ($3,180.50).

Just how high can the zinc price fly? Reuters’ Andy Home states:

“But right now the LME zinc market is bubbling away with stocks falling and spreads tightening. Volatility seems assured but can zinc return to the heady days of late 2006/early 2007, when the price peaked out at $4,580?”

How will zinc and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth zinc price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

The lead price grew this week following a Chinese-issued ban on North Korean exports.

According to a report from Reuters, lead’s sister metals also rebounded, in response to once-rising geopolitical tension easing up a bit and Chinese data, a top metals consumer, coming in higher than expected.

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“Those Chinese numbers (on Monday) were quite soft … I suppose the only glimmer of light came in the new yuan loans, which beat consensus, and maybe that suggests that things will remain stable as we go forwards,” Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale in London, told Reuters.

“The metals seem well poised. After a period of consolidation this week perhaps we’ll have another push towards those (recent) highs going forward,” Bhar added.

Lead Price Movement in August

Earlier this month, our own Fouad Egbaria reported that Chinese primary lead posted a price increase, growing 3.3% to $2,694.90/metric ton.

How will lead and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth lead price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

A once abandoned U.K. mine with a rich tin mining history may get another shot at resurrection thanks to a Canadian company.

The South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall has been shut down for nearly two decades, but Canada-based Strongbow Exploration is well on its way to reopening the mine still rich in tin.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

According to a report from The Telegraph, the South Crofty mine didn’t shut down because its tin bounty depleted — in fact, it shut down because of falling tin prices.

The news source states that if all things go according to plan, the mine could be reopened by 2020. The hope is that the continual recovery of tin prices will buoy the mine’s resurgence.

“It’s going to be a modern mine in the location of an old mine,” Richard Williams, Strongbow Exploration’s chief executive officer, told The Telegraph.

Once operational, the mine could employ as many as 300 individuals, not counting suppliers.

“We know there’s a resource there, we can identify it with new technology and make the project economic,” Peter Wale, its director, told the The Telegraph.

Once it opens again, the South Crofty mine will be one of just several functioning mines in the U.K., joining Wolf Minerals and ICL, the news source stated.

Tin Price Movement in 2017

How will tin and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth tin price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

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Copper prices are on the ascent, thanks in part to the latest Chinese trade data and genuine excitement among investors over worldwide growth and capacity cuts.

According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, China’s debt crackdown earlier this year led to an adverse effect on metal prices and general worry from investors.

That worry has turned to elation, with copper prices up 7% due to capacity cuts in China. Meanwhile, iron ore prices are up more than 20% since the end of June.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

The most recent Chinese trade data, representing July, painted a different picture with year-over-year growth of Chinese imports of copper concentrate slowing from June’s growth.

Nathaniel Taplin wrote for the Wall Street Journal: “Overall import and export growth also slowed, hinting that the lift to China from rebounding global trade may be close to its peak.”

The takeaway for copper investors impressed with Q2 Chinese growth? Not to get too excited until the whole story is revealed as China’s demand for metals, specifically copper, is weaker than expected.

Copper Prices Still Experiencing a Stellar 2017

Our own Irene Martinez Canorea wrote earlier this week that copper is outperforming all other base metals this month with copper traded on the London Metal Exchange up 7.8% in July.

She wrote: “The sharp increase in copper prices came after an announcement of a possible ban of copper scrap in China by the end of the year. The increase in copper prices was accompanied by heavy volume, which may signal a stronger uptrend.”

How will copper and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth copper price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

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