Articles on: Metal Prices

U.S. steel prices continue to retreat. After consistent week-over-week declines, HRC prices now sit more than 15% beneath their late-April peak while plate prices continue to trade sideways as they remain just 6% beneath their all-time high.

Steel prices

The Raw Steels Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell by 7.87% from May to June.

Know what to do when the market shifts. Related article: The Art of Timing Your Buy 

U.S. Manufacturing PMI climbed, Consumer sentiment plummeted

Steel pricesThe U.S. ISM Manufacturing PMI reached 56.1% in May. While the index climbed from April’s reading of 55.4, it marks the second-lowest reading since September of 2020. Domestic steel prices, particularly HRC, loosely mirrors the index trend. The index remains within a larger downtrend since it peaked in April of 2021.  

Of particular note, in spite of ongoing inflationary pressures, demand expanded as the New Orders Index grew from 53.5 in April to 55.1 in May. This data follows a 0.9% increase in consumer spending during April.

Meanwhile, according to preliminary data from the University of Michigan, consumer sentiment plunged to a record low between May and June. The index saw a 14% month-over-month decline, to hit its lowest recorded value at 50.2. June’s value compares to the low reached during the 1980 recession of 51.7 in May 1980. While overall consumer spending often diverges from sentiment, June’s consumer sentiment data may likely foreshadow a shift in spending trends toward necessities as consumers grapple with inflated prices. 

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Infrastructure funds could support steel prices in the longer term

According to the White House, states received more than $110 billion to fund projects related to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law since the bill was signed into law 6 months ago. The released funds are earmarked for more than 4,300 specific projects, including those related to road, bridges, port and airport modernization and water infrastructure throughout the U.S. An additional $100 billion in requests for information and notices of funding availability have also been released. Spending related to the infrastructure bill will take place over the course of the next 5 years. 

In Fiscal Year 2022 alone, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced $52.5 billion in Federal Highway Apportionment and $246 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System.Steel prices

Unlike other forms of steel, plate prices remain near record highs, albeit with modest declines since late April. HRC, CRC and HDG prices declined alongside falling mill lead times. While plate did not see the same increase in production capacity as other forms of steel, mill lead times have nonetheless retraced for plate which would indicate availability constraints no longer remain a driver in persistently high prices. Infrastructure spending has and will create steady demand for plate. Due to Buy America provisions, the plate market will likewise remain substantially insulated from lower-cost imports.    

Are you under pressure to generate steel cost savings? Make sure you are following these five best practices.

April U.S. steel imports, production slide

U.S. steel imports and U.S. steel production started to soften. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total U.S. imports of steel products saw an 11.68% decline from March to April. HRC, CRC, HDG and coiled plate imports saw respective 25.11%, 16.27%, 8.91% and 13.63% declines.

Meanwhile, according to the World Steel Association, crude steel production in the U.S. fell from roughly 7.0 million tons in March to 6.9 million tons in April. Further, April’s total reflects a 3.9% year-over-year decline. As steel supply both through imports and production slid on the back of continuous, across the board steel price declines (albeit modest for plate), this may likely prove to be an early indication of a downward trend for domestic steel demand in months to come. 

Actual steel prices and trends

Chinese slab prices increased by 8.11% month-over-month to $812 per metric ton as of June 1. Meanwhile, the Chinese billet price decreased by 4.71% to $667 per metric ton.

Chinese coking coal prices fell 2.23% to $524 metric ton.

U.S. three-month HRC futures fell 14.76% to $976 per short ton. While the spot price decreased by 8.92% to $1,338 from $1,469 per short ton. U.S. shredded scrap steel prices fell 5.91% to $525 per short ton.

Aluminum prices declined overall in May. However, near the end of the month, they appeared to hit bottom and began to trade sideways. Conflicting macroeconomic and geopolitical factors continue to pressure markets, resulting in unclear direction and price trends.
Overall, the Aluminum Monthly Metals Index (MMI) dropped by 6.21% month over month. 

Shanghai Lockdowns Return, Compounding Uncertainty

Shanghai’s reopening proved short-lived as the city stumbled back into lockdown this week. Following a surge in COVID cases, restrictions and mass testing are returning to most areas of the city. Shanghai first went into strict lockdown in late March to quell a major outbreak. Currently, officials intend to release areas that test negative from lockdown. Those that test positive will remain quarantined.

China remains unwavering in its COVID-zero commitment. The impact of this most recent setback remains unknown. It will likely depend on how long and how expansive the lockdowns become.

As cases rebounded almost immediately after Shanghai began reopening, the risk for subsequent lockdowns there and in other cities remains high.

China’s COVID Policies Still Squeezing Aluminum Prices

As long as Chinese demand remains muted, we can expect aluminum prices and market movements to be affected. During the initial stretch of Shanghai’s lockdown,  manufacturing activity plummeted. This caused China’s demand for aluminum to plummet too.

According to the latest numbers, imports of unwrought aluminum and aluminum products fell 11.1% from March to April. They also dropped 37.7% year over year. Meanwhile, output appeared largely unaffected. In fact, the average daily and total monthly production of primary aluminum hit record-highs in April, aided by the relaxation of power curbs.

China’s boost allowed global aluminum production to hold firm year over year during the month. It was a surprising result given the tightness brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, as supply outpaced demand in China, bearish sentiment climbed, and global aluminum prices slumped.

With Shanghai’s restrictions returning, markets will likely begin to price delays into China’s overall recovery.

With primary LME ingot prices falling, buyers should carefully review best practice sourcing strategies!

LME Inventories Fall While WTI Crude Climbs

As Chinese demand continues to experience holdups (however temporary), falling LME warehouse inventories and soaring energy prices add competing pressure to the upside for aluminum prices.

For example, inventories saw an 18.5% month-over-month drop at the end of May. On top of that, average inventory levels during the first five months of 2022 sit 55.34% beneath where they were in 2021. Of course, stock levels do not necessarily translate to a movement in prices. That said, consistent declines on top of falling European production levels may very well add friction to any fall in aluminum prices.

Energy prices also continue to climb. Indeed, WTI crude oil prices closed May more than 71% above the year prior. During the early days of June, prices increased beyond the $120/barrel mark, and they remain unlikely to subside in the near term.

In its most recent (and punitive) round of sanctions, the EU agreed to ban as much as 90% of Russian crude oil imports by the end of 2022.

Meanwhile, according to European Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, China continues to purchase Russian oil at a 35% discount. India, likewise, has stopped short of cutting off Russian energy supplies.

Nonetheless, the EU’s recent decision will leave a growing number of countries vying for energy produced elsewhere. As a result, aluminum production and input costs will continue to see pressure.

CME Aluminum Futures Contract Builds Momentum

 The LME nickel contract experienced the most direct and substantial fallout from the historic March nickel crisis. However, the reputational damage to the exchange has begun to permeate through to other metals.

The average daily volume for Aluminum futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit an all-time high in May with a 138% year-over-year jump. Open interest likewise increased 158% during that same period. Meanwhile, on the LME, open interest fell over 14% from March 8 to the end of May.

Thus far, aluminum has not yet faced the same loss of liquidity as nickel. There have also been few issues with volatility or price discovery. Nonetheless, this could indicate the beginning of a gradual shift between the two exchanges as a result of the crisis.

Since March, the CME Group has increasingly looked to capture disillusioned traders from the LME. Momentum is building in aluminum futures. That’s why the exchange also launched aluminum options on May 23. Despite these efforts, the LME remains the leading global exchange for industrial metals by a wide margin.

The MetalMiner Insights platform includes global aluminum prices, premiums, forecasts, and specific monthly busying strategies. Request a 30-minute demo of the MetalMiner Insights platform now.

Actual Aluminum Prices and Trends

  • The LME three-month aluminum price fell by 6.37% month-over-month to $2,850 per metric ton as of June 1.
  • Chinese primary cash aluminum decreased by 1.09% to $3,101 per metric ton. Chinese aluminum scrap rose 4.63% to $2,338 per metric ton. Chinese aluminum billet fell by 9.38% to $2,998 per metric ton.
  • Meanwhile, European 1050 aluminum sheet dropped by 3.82% to $4,302 per metric ton.
  • Indian primary cash fell by 10.36% to $3.03 per kilogram.

 

Nickel prices appeared to hit a bottom in mid-May, but the trend remains down. Moreover, recent price action showed few signs of any bullish structures on a weekly scale.

All in all, the Stainless Monthly Metals Index (MMI) dropped 9.4% from May to June.

LME Faces Nearly $500 Million in Lawsuits

The nickel crisis returned to the headlines earlier this week. Two financial groups sued the LME over its decision to cancel trades following the March 8 nickel squeeze. Trading firm Jane Street Group LLC and hedge-fund manager Elliot Management Corp. filed a respective $15.3 and $456 million dollar lawsuits against the exchange over its handling of the crisis.

The owner of the LME, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. acknowledged the suits in a statement. It read, “the LME management is of the view that the claim is without merit and the LME will contest it vigorously.” Jane Street, however, characterized the LME’s decision as “illegal” and “arbitrary.” They went on to say that it “severely undermines the integrity of the markets and sets a dangerous precedent that calls future contracts into question.”

The lawsuits follow an ongoing review of the LME’s actions by the LME’s primary regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England. After this was announced in early April, these reviews are compounded by the LME’s own independent probe.

Nickel Prices: A Tale of Two Exchanges

Nickle Prices

Nickle Price Squeeze

While the lawsuits once again brought attention to the nickel price crisis, the actual fallout remains ongoing. Some feel a departure of nickel traders from the LME was likely following the chaos and the exchange’s subsequent controversial approach to it. However, the ramifications of the crisis remain apparent across the globe.

Both the LME and SHFE continue to grapple with low liquidity. Trading volumes on the LME plummeted when nickel trading resumed in March. Meanwhile, open interest continues to show steady declines. Though the SHFE did not face the same early March suspension, it saw a sharp decline in trading volumes during that week as open interest collapsed. Both volumes and open interest remain constrained to this day.

While the retreat from the nickel market was a global effort, other metals remained largely unaffected.

Nickle Prices

 

Nornickel Projects Slowed Demand Growth

According to the world’s largest high-grade nickel producer, nickel demand will remain in growth but slow from +17% in 2021 to +11% in 2022. Nornickel also expects global inflation and macroeconomic uncertainty to account for much of the slowdown. The producer’s previous forecasts for a rough 40,000 ton surplus (which is expected to widen to 100,000 tons in 2023) of low-grade nickel remains unchanged.

Nickel, alongside other commodities, faced numerous price pressures throughout the past year. COVID-related lockdowns and restrictions continue to disrupt the supply chain. Combined with tight nickel inventories, this fostered considerable bullish sentiment in 2021. The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which preceded nickel’s historic short squeeze, also remains a point of concern. This is especially relevant as global inflationary pressures threaten the demand outlook.

Nornickel’s forecast hinges on two factors. First, there’s the extent of China’s economic recovery as it gradually emerges from lockdowns. Second, it’s important to consider the impact of future expected interest rate hikes from the Fed. Indeed, these two forces are likely to influence price directions for commodities as a whole throughout the coming months.

See the impact on stainless steel prices. Check out MetalMiner’s stainless steel should cost models by scheduling a demo of the Insights platform.

Actual Nickel Prices and Metals Trends

  • The Allegheny Ludlum 304 stainless surcharge held at $1.82 per pound as of June 1. Meanwhile, the Allegheny Ludlum 316 surcharge held at $2.45 per pound.
  • Chinese primary nickel decreased by 5.4% to $32,866 per metric ton.
  • LME three-month nickel fell by 11.45% to $28,800 per metric ton.
  • Indian primary nickel increased by 11.4% to $29.46 per kilogram.

Nickel prices are seeing a lot of attention due to an overall lack of liquidity on the LME contract. But what exactly does this mean? Moreover, what does it mean for buyers looking to mitigate price problems in the face of global supply problems?

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Understanding Price, Procurement, and Price Discovery

Every manufacturing CEO wants their procurement teams to do three things well. First, they want them to understand metal price trends from a short-term perspective. Second, they want them to know where prices will go from a long-term perspective. Finally, they want sound buying strategies based on that forecast.

Why do CEOs want this? Because at the end of the day, they need to better predict their margins if they’re going to keep shareholders happen. After all, there’s no better way to earn the ire of shareholders than poorly projecting profits.

Today, procurement departments with a substantial metal spend as a percentage of the cost of goods sold (COGS), forecast and manage profitability relying heavily on market fundamentals. In short: supply and demand.

Unfortunately, that methodology tends to provide a lot of “false positives. This is when a market based on limited supply indicates high prices, yet they remain low. You also have to contend with “false negatives.” Logically, this is when surplus inventory signals lower prices, but they remain stubbornly high.

The “new” way of forecasting metal prices provides more clarity and, more importantly, allows for more accurate buying decisions. This new methodology uses a mix of Artificial Intelligence (historical prices) and Technical Analysis (the study of price action as traded on exchanges).

A technology-driven approach like this helps buying organizations better understand where prices are most likely to go. In turn, this directs them on which kind of buying decisions to make. However, when an exchange-traded metal price loses its liquidity, the process known as “price discovery” breaks.

What Does Loss of Liquidity Actually Mean?

Simply put: liquidity refers to the number and volume of trades placed by active traders and market makers buying and selling a contract. Before March 8, the LME nickel contract typically had 10-12k contracts traded daily. Since then, LME nickel volumes have declined to around 2-3k contracts a day. This means that the LME has lost over 50% of its nickel liquidity ( a conservative estimate). As one might expect, this lost volume severely impacts price movement.

Let’s look at what happened to LME Nickel contracts after prices soared to over $100,000/mt:

Nickel price chart

As you can see, when liquidity disappears, industrial buying organizations purchasing nickel (or stainless steel containing nickel) have a harder time mitigating price risk.

Now, market makers and corporates are still trading at normal volumes on other contracts like aluminum, copper, and zinc. But in terms of nickel, SHFE contracts have not gained enough volume momentum to become significantly higher than the LME.

MetalMiner Insights tracks nickel and other contracts and lets buyers know when and how much they should buy.

Therefore, the future of the LME nickel contract will depend on how much volume/liquidity becomes openly available. If little to no volume returns, prices will move very slowly. In that case, the risk for the LME increases as low liquidity signals a lack of price discovery on the exchange.

Nickel Prices Will See Ramifications for Some Time

All of that said, buying organizations can still hedge against nickel using the SHFE contract. In fact, MetalMiner’s own trading desk has also traded JJN, a nickel-based ETF.

As previously reported by MetalMiner, the LME made a big mistake supporting Tsingshan, the nickel stainless producer that placed big bets on nickel prices falling. The company was over collateralized/margin called instantly once the LME nickel contract began to skyrocket.

Also, the LME retracted trades made off that price move. That means the ones left holding the bag made no profit, even though they were on the right side of the coin, so to speak. What should have happened was Tsingshan facing a margin call, losing, and paying out the profits the buyers deserved.

While some market observers may feel Tsingshan was “too big to fail,” the move by the LME has created a lot of distrust. Many market makers have fled the exchange altogether, ruining the possibility of a future influx of high volume/liquidity from retail.

Currently, it appears the LME nickel contract will suffer the balance of this year and possibly next year with low liquidity. You may remember the same thing happened with GME (Gamestop) back in 2021. When Robinhood halted trading of GME and AMC, it fostered a ton of distrust in the app.

Ask yourself: who would want to buy into the  Robinhood-Marvin Capital scandal of the metals market?

 You can keep yourself informed about all the latest metal news with MetalMiner’s monthly MMI Report. Sign up here to begin receiving it completely FREE of charge. If you want a serious competitive edge in the metals industry, try a demo/tour of our revolutionary insights platform here.

 

 

 

 

Metal processors and traders throughout China are facing a grim reality today. Thanks to major economic shifts both within the country and without, metals demand has plummeted. Of course, it’s not great news for the world’s biggest metals manufacturer. But what does it mean for the rest of the world?

China aluminum

Grispb/Adobe Stock

A Hard Few Years with More to Come

When you boil it down, even the most complicated markets are just supply and demand. Of course, the world has seen extremes of both factors these past few years. In that time, we’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the Ever Given getting stuck in the Suez Canal.

From 2020 to 2021, buyers throughout China were largely responsible for a global surge in metals prices. At the time, they were hedging their bets in expectation of further price increases. However, March and April saw massive declines in demand for their products.

According to an S&P Global article, internal property sales started the trend. Soon after came the COVID-19 lockdowns, factory shutdowns, and a huge drop in the purchase of consumer metal products. So, everything being supply and demand, those eager buyers from 2020 and 2021 have now turned into eager sellers.

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Rushing to Adjust to Metals Demand

Even China isn’t big enough to argue with data, and metals futures are indicating strong selling pressure. Financial analyst company Refinitiv has aluminum, zinc, steel rebar, and iron ore futures declining through the remainder of 2022. With no real forecast for 2023 as of yet, buyers who attempt to sit on their supplies stand to lose millions.

As previously mentioned, a lot of this has to do with low demand in China itself. The construction sector accounts for some 50% of steel consumption and 30% of aluminum consumption. With new projects floundering and projected growth nearly nonexistent, the “middlemen” are feeling a pretty big pinch. In many cases, steel traders are selling their inventories below their purchasing costs in an attempt to salvage their operations.

Stimulus to the Rescue?

Beijing has not been idle in the face of the country’s economic woes. They recently announced a series of economic stimulus measures aimed at propping up their struggling economy. The measures include cuts to benchmark lending rates and delayed loan repayments, among other things. However, the capital has yet to back off its authoritarian COVID measures.

Most experts agree that China’s commitment to lockdowns and shutdowns is too big an economic disruptor for a simple stimulus to fix.

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It’s still touch-and-go for the steel sector in China despite the sprouting of the first shoots of a possible manufacturing recovery. However, last Monday, benchmark iron ore prices in the country gained a surprising 7%. This is the biggest daily rise in two-and-a-half months. Is it a sign that we should be more optimistic, or is this just a dead cat bounce?

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bulk cargo iron ore

masterskuz55, 2022, AdobeStock

China’s Slow Road to Recovery

Chinese manufacturing activity has thus far been down in 2022 due to a fresh COVID-19 outbreak. However, since mid-May, the market has shown some signs of recovery, particularly in the country’s economic hub of Shanghai. Nevertheless, experts expect steel demand to remain lackluster until manufacturing production returns to normal in June.

S&P Global Commodity Insights reported that China’s manufacturing production index for steel consumption fell by 28 points from 2021 and 16 points from 2020. These aren’t exactly hopeful numbers, and experts are concerned about the pace of recovery despite the stimulus package.

India Playing Hard Ball on Tariffs with Iron Ore

The aforementioned 7% rise in iron ore futures is puzzling. Firstly, it comes on the heels of India raising export duties on some commodities to rein in inflationary pressures. Specifically, the country increased duties for iron ore and steel intermediates. This included raising new iron ores and concentrates tariffs from 30% to 50%. On the other hand, pellet duties went from zero to 45%. According to a report in the Financial Post, tariffs on coking coal and coke were removed altogether.

This week, the most-traded iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange (for September delivery) were up 4.4% at $129.18 (864 yuan) a ton. This was after a surge of as much as 6.9%, the highest since May 6th. Some experts believe India’s move may not impact China’s iron ore inventories as much as initially thought. After all, it only represented about 3% of China’s total imports in 2021. The same goes for the first four months of this year. Overall, Chain’s purchase rate from the subcontinent has stayed low due to increasing demand in India & the falling iron ore prices.

Iron Ore Prices in China are up

News agency Reuters recently reported that we could see a new rally of iron ore prices. They specifically cited the Chinese government’s decision to cut its benchmark interest rate for mortgages by an unexpectedly wide margin. Prices reacted rather quickly to this news.

According to Argus, spot 62% iron ore for delivery to northern China was up to $135.90 a ton on May 20th. That’s an increase of 5.7% from the previous day, and the best close since May 6th. Domestic iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange were also stronger. However, they were up by a much more modest 3.4% to end at $123.62 (827 yuan) a ton on May 20th.

The MetalMiner Insights platform provides both Dalian iron ore prices as well as a full range of AI driven metal price forecasts. 

China lowered the five-year loan prime rate by 15 basis points to 4.45% on May 20th. This represented the biggest reduction since the country revamped its interest rate mechanism in 2019. Analysts felt this new move was largely an attempt to prop up the property and construction sectors. These sectors account for about 25% of the country’s economy. In addition, Chinese premier Li Keqiang said Beijing would step up policy adjustments to return the world’s second-biggest economy to “normal growth.”

According to the same report cited earlier, some experts believe a rally around iron ore prices was in the cards. After all, such measures had clear implications for iron ore and steel demand. Moreover, initial signs suggest China was already on its way to increasing steel output after the winding down of winter pollution curbs and the removal of some of the COVID-19 restrictions.

All in all, April output rose 5.1% from the prior month to 92.78 million tons. However, it’s worth noting that this was 5.2% below April 2021’s numbers. The period from June onward will be crucial if we really want to get a sense of where Chinese iron ore and steel prices are heading.

China is Also Making Moves Regarding Supply

In the meantime, Channel News Asia reports that the Cameroonian government had inked a deal with Sinosteel Corporation Limited to mine high-grade iron ore for about US $676 million (420 billion CFA francs). It’s part of the country’s bid to find new sources for the steel-making ingredient.

Under the 20-year mining agreement, Sinosteel Cam S.A., a Cameroonian subsidiary of state-owned Chinese mining firm Sinosteel, will develop the central African nation’s Lobe iron ore mine. It’s part of China’s ongoing effort to diversify its ore supply beyond Australia (where it is currently engaged in a trade war) and Brazil.

The deal would result in 4 million tons of ore, with 60% of iron content being produced and shipped. The higher-grade iron ore would also help reduce Chinese carbon emissions from the steel-making process.

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The UK Trade Remedies Authority announced on Friday, May 20, that new measures should be put in place to “protect the UK’s aluminum extrusion industry” from dumped Chinese products.” The surprise move comes after an 11-month investigation into inconsistencies with aluminum bar imports.

The TRA made the recommendation to the organization’s current Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan. Spurring on the investigation were some of the UK’s few remaining aluminum extruders, particularly Norsk Hydro.

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China aluminum

Grispb/Adobe Stock

The Details Behind the Decision

After some initial research, the TRA concluded that imports of Chinese aluminum extrusions were being dumped into the UK at unfair prices. After noting this had caused significant injury to the UK’s own industry, the organization determined that a formal investigation was warranted.

In the meantime, the TRA will put some provisional measures in place. For example, importers will have to provide a bank guarantee to HMRC, the UK tax authority. This will have to cover any duty ultimately applied to imports over the next six months prior to a final determination.

The MetalMiner Insights platform now contains detailed 5000 and 6000 series aluminum bar prices. Try a demo/tour of the insights platform here.

The measures go into effect on May 28. And while the level of duty is unknown, the original investigation suggested some Chinese manufacturers had been underselling their products at between 7.3% and 29.1%. This is enough to expose importers to potential claims of nearly 1/3 the goods’  value.

Aluminum Bar Imports Remain Necessary

Chinese aluminum bar products currently attract the same 6% duty level as imports from other countries. This is slightly less than the 7.5% duty applied by the EU on imports into the block. Meanwhile, rumors persist among trade buyers that the rule could apply to only those bars above 3.25″ (82.55mm) diameter. If true, this would impact only those commodities on the lower end of the cost spectrum.

While the TRA’s announcement makes no such distinction, there would be some logic in such a size cut-off. This is because UK extruders’ small presses cater to this end of the size range, and there are no domestic UK producers of larger diameter bars. As a result, companies need to import all large diameter product. In this case, additional duties would be self-defeating: protecting no one but damaging a broad consumer base in oil, gas, heavy engineering, and automotive.

Interviews with both UK importers and Chinese manufacturers make it clear this has come as a surprise to many in the industry. They also indicate that the almost-immediate application of the interim measures may do more harm than good. Specifically, it will affect those companies with orders in production or on shipment. After all, they have no means of canceling or mitigating potential costs.

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The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) held flat for a .56 percent change this month. Even so, some rare earths prices have seen significant fluctuation.

Rare earth prices

Praseodymium Neodymium Oxide is one such example. The allow saw a significant price increase over the past month.

Check out the MetalMiner forecast track record. By correctly calling the trends MetalMiner clients save millions of dollars annually.

Supply Issues Continue to Savage Scrap Markets

Supply chain constraints have also wreaked havoc on metal scrap markets. From nickel to steel to rare earths, many points in the scrap supply chain had to reduce or even stop production. According to a recent piece in Shanghai Metals Markets, this was particularly true of small and mid-sized scrap recyclers.

However, rare earths – along with many other metals – have seen weak demand in Chain due to strict COVID-19 lockdowns. Some speculate that prices for RE’s will increase this month as some restrictions are lifted. However, SMM reports that downstream demand remains muted.

Utah’s Rio Tinto Kennecott Mine Officially Beings Mining Tellurium

Kennecott Utah Copper, a division of the Rio Tinto Group, has officially begun the process of recovering one of the world’s rarest elements: tellurium. According to a report from KSL.com, the facility should be able to produce around 20 tons of tellurium a year. This new capacity is all thanks to a $2.9 million circuit build.

This advancement makes the company one of only two US producers of tellurium, which is critical to the production of advanced thin-film photovoltaic solar panels. The element has a rarity comparable to platinum and has no commercially significant source on its own. The most common extraction method is to harness by-products from copper and lead production.

Whether it’s rare earth metals, carbon steel prices, aluminum prices or stainless prices, the MetalMiner weekly newsletter will give you actionable insights to better buy with confidence!

More on Rare Earths Prices

  • Prices dropped sharply for Praseodymium Oxide, down 12.84% to 132,416/mt from $151,927/mt.
  • Praseodymium Neodymium Oxide also slipped falling 13.68% to $129,783/mt from $150,353/mt.
  • Dysprosium oxide also dropped by 8.47% from $427/kg to $391/kg.

Praseodymium prices

Source: MetalMiner Insights 

 

The ascent for U.S. steel prices faltered as HRC, CRC, and HDG prices began to fall in early May. Plate prices also took a big dip.   

All in all, the Raw Steels Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell by 8.9% from April to May.

Know what to do when the market shifts. Related article: The Art of Timing Your Buy

Iron Ore Slumps to 4-Month Low on Demand Concerns

Iron ore prices fell to a 4-month low on mounting demand concerns due to China’s ongoing lockdowns. Meanwhile, iron ore fines fell to $131.90 on May 10, the lowest since Jan 31 and a 12.6% decline since the close of March. 

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Chinese steel output dropped more than 6% year over year in March. On top of lockdowns and restrictions due to COVID outbreaks, Chinese steel production faced several other curbs in recent months. Among them were Olympics-related cuts, which expired in March, and China’s specific intentions to reduce crude steel production in 2022.

China’s property sector also remains a point of concern. Property developer Sunac missed a recent bond payment in early May, becoming the latest property developer to fall into default. According to the company, “liquidity issues” played a significant role in their missing payment. Additionally, sales were “significantly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.” Indeed, there was a 65% drop in sales from March to April. Before Sunac’s default, Zhenro Properties attributed its own default in April to the “unforeseen scale and duration” of lockdowns in Shanghai.

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Whirlpool Trims Sales Forecast as Steel Prices Dip

Domestically, Whirlpool started to see a slowdown in demand, which caused it to narrow projected sales for 2022. Following an 8.2% year-over-year drop in sales during the first quarter, the North American appliance sector stated it would remain level during 2022. This is a major change from its previous forecast of 3% growth. Industry wide, North American volumes fell 4% year over year during the first quarter, although they nonetheless stand 24% above 2019 levels.

While some see Whirlpool’s slowdown as a warning of what’s to come, U.S. demand through March appeared strong. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, new orders for manufactured durable goods saw 0.8% growth in March. Consumer spending likewise rose 1.1%. Both of these factors serve as strong economic health indicators. Manufacturing, in particular, makes up roughly 12% of the U.S. economy.

Manufacturers’ New Orders: Durable Goods

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Arcelormittal Expects Up to 1% Drop In Global Steel Demand in 2022

ArcelorMittal SA recently lowered its estimates for global steel demand. The world’s second-largest steelmaker now expects demand to fall up to 1% in 2022. They cite the war in Ukraine and China’s zero-COVID policy, which are slowing the global economic recovery and increasing inflationary pressures. This is a big change from their forecast of 1% growth prior to the Russian invasion.

The European Steel Association (Eurofer) also narrowed its outlook for EU steel consumption in 2022. Thus far, Europe has experienced the brunt of the economic impact from the war in Ukraine. Alongside supply chain disruptions and a “worsening energy crisis,” Eurofer now expects consumption to fall 1.9% in 2022. All this after consumption rebounded by 15.2% in 2021. However, the organization remains optimistic for 2023, projecting an overall 5.1% increase.

Are you under pressure to generate steel cost savings? Make sure you are following these five best practices.

Steel Prices: Actual Metals Prices and Trends

  • Chinese slab prices fell by 5.03% month-over-month to $767 per metric ton as of May 1. Meanwhile, the Chinese billet price decreased by 7.96% to $699.92 per metric ton.
  • Chinese coking coal prices rose 7.63% to $535.64 per metric ton.
  • U.S. three-month HRC futures fell 24.42% to $1,145 per short ton. While the spot price increased by 4.56% to $1,405 from $1,405 per short ton. U.S. shredded scrap steel prices rose by a mere 1% to $606 per short ton.

The Renewables Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell 6.4% with notable drops in steel prices, particularly for plate.

Source: MetalMiner Insights

Biden’s Plan for a More Renewable US

Breaking news in the US Green Energy push. The Biden Administration has released an “action plan” intended to accelerate permitting on new green projects. The goal is to loosen the administrative red tape that keeps infrastructure investments from hitting their time and budget goals. The move is part of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. So far, this has proved to be one of the administration’s only “wins.”

Back in mid-April, MetalMiner reported that Biden had implemented the Defense Production Act again. This time, it was to boost US production of materials related to large capacity batteries, semiconductors, and critical minerals. The Cold War-era act has so far been used three times by the Biden administration to increase the production of protective equipment, vaccines, and fire hoses.

From Utah: The Desert “Goes Green”

The Advanced Clean Energy Storage Project plans to be the world’s largest industrial green hydrogen facility. The site will be located near Delta, a small town near Central Utah’s Sevier River. This particular part of the state is already home to a hybrid plant combining geothermal and hydropower energy. It is also rich with solar fields, wind farms, and even hog manure natural gas plants.

The Advanced Clean Energy Storage Project will produce and store green hydrogen, which has significantly lower carbon emissions than traditional hydrogen. It is produced by using green energy to power water electrolysis, making it far superior to fossil fuels. In mid-April, the organization received a $500 Million conditional commitment from the US Department of Energy.

The UK is Seeking a New Source of Solar Power: Outer Space

Over in the UK, the green energy conversation is taking a turn towards science fiction. More than 50 British tech organizations, including Airbus, SSTL, and Cambridge University, are currently working with the UK Space Energy Initiative to develop a space-based solar power plant.

The group believes that beaming electricity from space will help the UK meet its greenhouse gas emission targets by the middle of the century. Spokespersons for the project state that all of the technology necessary for such a power plant already exists. The problem, they say, is how to combine them into a project of this size and scope.

While Space.come has already produced a compelling video of what this process might look like, experts say we’re still years away from a workable solution.

The world is moving toward green energy, which necessitates a wide range of valuable metals. Keep yoursTelf informed on all the latest news and information by signing up for our weekly MetalMiner newsletter here

Grain Oriented Electrical Steel Prices Jump 14%.

The GOES MMI, the index for grain-oriented electrical steel, rose 14.1% from April to May.

Meanwhile, the largest grid operator in Texas asked residents to conserve energy during the current heat wave. The directive asked for homes to be set at 78 degrees or higher from 3-8pm over the weekend as well as to lay off the use of heavy appliances. Six power plants tripped offline at one time, costing the grid the energy to power 600,000 homes.

More on Steel Prices: Aperam Takes a Beating from Zacks IR

Back in early May, Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Aperam from “hold” to “sell.” This triggered a brief sell-off that was quickly recovered the next day as investors looked to grab up discounted shares. In the week since, however, the company has seen a steady decline, closing out this Friday at $35.85 a share. This is just shy of the 52-week low of $34.61 and well below the year high of $65.

Aperam S.A. manufactures and markets Stainless steel throughout South America and Europe. It produces both GOES and non-grain-oriented electrical steel and nickel alloys. Other major research firms have maintained the company’s “hold” rating, but price targets are already starting to slip.

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