Industry News

Continuing our review of 2021 — we previously recapped the most-viewed carbon steel and aluminum articles of the year — today we’ll take a look at stainless steel.

As MetalMiner analyst Nichole Bastin noted earlier this month, nickel prices surged to a seven-year high in November. More than two-thirds of global nickel production goes toward stainless steel output.

After peaking in late November, nickel prices retraced and consolidated, reaching $19,700 per metric ton last week.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, nickel prices plunged on the heels of nickel supply news from China’s Tsingshan Holding Group. The LME three-month nickel price plunged from around $19,700 in late February to $16,000 per metric ton in early March.

However, buyers continue to face shortages of stainless steel. According to MEPS International Inc., a U.K.-based steel market analysis firm, U.S. stainless steel production is forecast to rise by 16% this year.

Even so, shortages will likely continue into next year.

“Shortages of stainless steel, particularly cold rolled coil, are likely to be a feature of the domestic market in the short term,” MEPS said in a Dec. 1 report.

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

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As we continue our review of MetalMiner coverage in 2021, today we’ll take a look back at the top aluminum and aluminum price stories of the year.

Previously, we reviewed the top carbon steel stories of the year.

aluminum ingot stacked for export

Olegs/Adobe Stock

Like other metals, aluminum prices enjoyed a bullish run over the past year. The LME three-month price peaked in late October 2021 at $3,200 per metric ton.

Since then, prices have cooled, falling to nearly $2,500 per metric ton before ticking back up and stabilizing throughout November and December.

With that, let’s take a look back at the most-viewed MetalMiner aluminum stories of the year.

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

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It seems perverse to say that COVID could come to the rescue of the European energy market.

But the reality is the market is in a precarious state. Restrictions hindering businesses and industries’ power consumption could alleviate the energy crunch by reducing power use.

At the height of the 2020 lockdowns, power demand fell by as much is 20% in parts of Europe. Reports earlier this year of sky-high natural gas costs and low natural gas inventories have faded in recent weeks as other issues have hit the headlines.

However, the chronic lack of reserves remains a critical issue. It has been a factor in recent price rises, which have been compounded by related factors.

Better time your metal market purchases with the MetalMiner Insights platform. Request a demo.

Electricity price surge

E.U. flag

Andrey Kuzmin/Adobe Stack

Bloomberg reports prices soared to new records last week because of the impact of unexpected nuclear outages in France and worryingly low stockpiles of natural gas across the continent.

Meanwhile, on Friday natural gas prices plunged as Russia decided to supply the market at the 11th hour. Prices remain at dizzyingly high levels and are super sensitized to the slightest suggestion demand could rise due to a cold snap or further supply disruption.

Metal buyers will recall earlier this year metal prices rose as zinc smelters were forced to close due to power shortages.

Imagine how much more severe that could be in the middle of a prolonged mid-winter cold snap.

Authorities could be forced to make choices between rationing industry and keep the heat on for vulnerable domestic consumers.

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As the year draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the MetalMiner stories that proved to be most popular with readers this year, starting with carbon steel.

steel production

photollurg/Adobe Stock

As with metals as a whole, steel prices experienced a rocky 2020 after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, however, proved a different story, as U.S. steel prices experienced a nearly uninterrupted ascent, which only came to an end in October.

The coronavirus pandemic slammed metals demand overall, including steel demand, in 2020. The automotive industry idled production at the end of Q1 and into Q2 2020, severely denting demand. However, eventually automakers restarted lines and demand returned. Automakers continue to face supply shortages, however, which has contributed to low inventory and capped sales.

In August 2020, U.S. steel prices began a rise that only came to an end in October 2021. Hot rolled coil prices, for example, surged to around $1,930 per short ton in October, according to MetalMiner Insights data. HRC prices remain elevated but have since declined, falling to $1,697 per short ton last week.

The emergence of the omicron variant in recent weeks has cast a pall over global markets, as several European countries reinstituted lockdown measures amid surging infection rates.

On the policy front, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November. The bill, which includes $550 billion for infrastructure improvements, should boost demand for metals, generally. However, that boost is not likely to materialize immediately.

With that, let’s take a look back at the most-viewed carbon steel stories of the year on MetalMiner.

Stop obsessing about the actual forecasted steel price. It’s more important to spot the trend

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Thyssenkrupp’s prospective plans to separate Thyssenkrupp Steel (TKS) into a standalone company indicate a plan to sell it, industry watchers said, though they questioned what kind of price the German conglomerate would ultimately receive.

“Everybody knows that it has been an exceptional year,” one trader said about steel prices and demand.

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

Thyssenkrupp favors ‘stand-alone’ solution for steel unit

ThyssenKrupp

eyewave/Adobe Stock

That comment followed Thyssenkrupp’s late November announcement of plans to split Thyssenkrupp Steel (TKS) from the rest of the group.

“Thyssenkrupp is still convinced that a stand-alone solution offers the best future prospects for Steel Europe. However, spinning off the steel business is a very complex undertaking characterized by economic challenges and a large number of uncertainties. A final decision will depend on many factors, some of them external,” the conglomerate said Nov. 18, when it announced its financial results for 2020/21.

“As well as addressing the usual carve-out issues, Thyssenkrupp is currently conducting a feasibility study to explore which conditions are required to achieve a stand-alone solution for the steel business,” the group added.

TKS’ adjusted earnings before income tax (EBIT) came to €116 million ($438 million) for its 2020/21 fiscal year ending Sept. 30. That compared to a loss of €820 million ($925 million) for the previous fiscal year.

Revenues for that year totaled €8.93 billion ($10 billion), the subsidiary said on Dec. 2, up by a quarter from 2020-2021, TKS noted.

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including declining steel prices, a look at inflation’s impact on metals and much more:

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Week of Dec. 13-17 (steel prices, inflation impact and more)

steel shipment

Hor/Adobe Stock

Sick of not finding good price indexes for stainless steel? Check out the MetalMiner stainless steel should-cost model — detailed price-per-pound info for grade, form, alloy, gauge, width, cut-to-length adders, polish and finish adders.

This morning in metals news: U.S. Steel released its guidance for Q4 2021; U.S. job openings increased in 16 states in October; and, lastly, copper prices continue to trade sideways.

Do you know the five best practices of sourcing metals, including steel?

U.S. Steel releases Q4 guidance

U.S. Steel logo

Игорь Головнёв/Adobe Stockk

U.S. Steel said it expects its Q4 2021 adjusted EBITDA to come in at $1.65 billion.

“Next year, our fixed price contracts are resetting significantly higher, providing better earnings stability compared with competitors with more spot exposure,” CEO David B. Burritt said. “Additionally, incremental demand drivers are materializing, and we believe the steel industry super cycle will continue. Our fourth quarter guidance indicates another quarter of strong performance yet reflects a temporary slowdown in order entry activity, which we believe is related to typical seasonal year-end buying activity.”

The firm said its flat-rolled segment would deliver EBITDA of $1 billion.

“The strong performance is driven by increased flow-through of higher steel selling prices offset by cautious seasonal buying and higher raw material and energy costs,” the firm added.

Job openings rise in 16 states

U.S. jobs openings increased in 16 states in October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Openings declined in two states and were relatively unchanged in 32 states. Hawaii, Minnesota and Kentucky posted the largest increases in job opening rates.

Copper continues to move sideways

In the copper market, copper prices have continued to move sideways over the last six weeks.

The LME copper price closed Wednesday at $9,495 per metric ton, per MetalMiner Insights data. The price fell 2.4% month over month.

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MetalMiner, the leading metal market price intelligence brand and SaaS platform, providing forecasts, analysis and risk mitigation solutions for global manufacturers, has moved to newly incorporated Alpha Commodities, spinning out of parent company Azul Partners.

Supply chain disruptions, lack of material availability, high prices and rampant inflation have wreaked havoc for manufacturers and other industries. The MetalMiner (SM) Insights platform enables buying organizations to receive actionable procurement guidance and to develop category strategies with real-time price feeds, forecasts, prescriptive sourcing recommendations and should-cost models.

“We’re hearing increasing frustration amongst global manufacturers that highly volatile metals markets and supply chain disruptions have made managing margins nearly impossible,” said Don Hauser, vice president of business solutions and formerly a supply base manager at John Deere. “It has been extremely difficult to achieve budget and profitability targets.”

The MetalMiner Insights platform and related forecasting solutions, currently used by over 50 of the world’s largest OEMs and their supply chain partners, help buying organizations plan their purchases, according to Michael Struhar, senior sourcing manager at Milwaukee Tool Corp. “Personally, the most valuable piece in the Insights platform is the at-a-glance current price and forecast data that assists with forward planning and negotiations,” Struhar said. “It’s the best overall information data related to metal commodities.”

“We are very excited about the company’s growth trajectory and product road map,” said Lisa Reisman, CEO and founder of Alpha Commodities. “For the past six years, MetalMiner has achieved an unparalleled forecasting track record resulting in cost savings and real price risk mitigation for manufacturers. Our AI capability, correlation analysis, and predictive analytics provide the most comprehensive OEM metal price intelligence solution available today.”

The MetalMiner Insights platform provides both 30-day and longer-term price outlooks across a range of non-ferrous and ferrous metals. Built using a technical analysis methodology and AI, MetalMiner subscribers receive specific actionable buying insights to support strategic sourcing decision-making. The platform is available as an enterprise solution and also through a full API integration capability.

The MetalMiner forecasting and buying strategy track record can be accessed here for stainless steel, here for carbon steel and here for aluminum.

Media Contact:

Lisa Reisman

lreisman@metalminer.com

Tel 773.865.0387

About Alpha Commodities

Alpha Commodities, through its MetalMiner (™) brand, provides unique price data, short- and long-term forecasts with actionable buying strategies, and should-cost modeling. The company is a woman-owned business situated in Gary, Ind.

This morning in metals news: U.S. import prices gained in November; meanwhile, U.S. construction starts surged in November; and, lastly, the Energy Information Administration forecasts record monthly natural gas production in 2022.

Better time your metal market purchases with the MetalMiner Insights platform. Request a demo

Import prices rise 0.7%

cargo trains

Oleksiy Mark/Adobe Stock

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. import prices gained by 0.7% in November. The rise follows a 1.5% increase in October.

The index for U.S. imports rose by 11.7% over the last 12 months. Import fuel prices rose by 2.0% in November after a jump of 11.1% in October.

“Prices for nonagricultural industrial supplies and materials advanced 2.0 percent in November, driven by higher prices for fuel, nonferrous metals, and chemicals,”

Construction starts jump in November

U.S. privately owned construction starts reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,679,000 in November.

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Importers of metals and metal components may be seeing a glimmer of light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel of logistics chaos, sky-high freight rates and shipping delays.

Freight rates have eased from peaks per 40ft container in the summer for some shippers of up to $15,000 to $9,000 last month. Rates have fallen further to around $7,000 today, as reported by the the Financial Times.

The number of vessels sitting off the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach waiting to discharge have declined from 261 in September to 246 in October and 216 last month, the Financial Times reports.

Not a massive decline, but at least the trend appears in the right direction.

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Shipping rates down, but for how long?

Shipping

enanuchit/Adobe Stock

Still, before we break out the Christmas champagne early, not all the news is quite so positive.

Rates have declined. However, this is in part a reflection of the fact that the peak Christmas traffic has now passed. Current shipments will not arrive until into the New Year. As such, the impetus to ship come what may is over.

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