Industry News

This morning in metals news: U.S. steel imports are up by 17.4% in the year to date, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported; meanwhile, Toyota Motor is imposing its biggest price hike on steel materials in over a decade, according to Nikkei Asia; and, lastly, the WTI crude oil price has ticked up this week.

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US steel imports up 17.4%

imports

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US steel imports jumped by 17.4% through the first seven months of the year, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported.

The U.S. imported a total of 3.0 million net tons of steel in July 2021, up 2.8% from June, AISI reported, citing Census Bureau data.

Meanwhile, through the first seven months of 2021, steel imports totaled 17.7 million net tons, or up 17.4% year over year.

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While the world looks on with growing concern at the political play unfolding in Afghanistan with the takeover of the Taliban, another sidebar to this developing story that is slowly creeping into public consciousness is the vast treasure-trove of minerals in that country, and how the Taliban government will exploit it.

One estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) given years ago had pegged the worth of Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources at U.S. $1 trillion. Some Afghan officials have said the actual figure could be three times more.

Afghanistan on a map

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Afghanistan’s mountains contain a wide range of critical resources, including: copper, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, rare earths, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.

However, even before the U.S. entered its borders 20 years ago, Afghanistan had struggled to tap those reserves.

Two decades later, the situation is not very different.

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This morning in metals news: Norsk Hydro plans to expand capacity at its Sjunnen aluminum extrusion plant; the Pilbara Ports Authority reported a decline in throughput in July; and, lastly, the United States International Trade Commission conducted a five-year sunset review on existing duty orders for carbon and alloy steel standard, line and pressure pipe from China.

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Hydro to boost capacity at Sjunnen

Norsk Hydro

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Oslo-based Norsk Hydro announced it plans to increase capacity at its extrusion plant in Sjunnen, Sweden.

The firm said it will finalize the expansion, which comes at a cost of €11.3 million, by the end of 2022.

“The decision to expand the aluminium casthouse operations in Sjunnen comes in response to an increased market demand for low-carbon aluminium profiles across all industries where Hydro Extrusions operates,” Hydro said.

“Furthermore, the location in the south of Sweden is ideal to capture available used aluminium metal from local industries which otherwise would have had to be transported long distances, increasing cost and carbon footprint of the final product.”

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U.S. steel capacity utilization picked back up to 85.0% for the week ending Aug. 21, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

Receive the latest short-term and long-term outlook for the full range of industrial metals (base and ferrous) at the annual MetalMiner Forecasting Workshop on Aug. 25. 

Steel capacity rises

hot rolled steel

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U.S. steel capacity utilization rose to 85.0% from 84.7% the previous week. Steel output reached 1,877,000 net tons last week, up 0.4% from the previous week.

Meanwhile, steel output for the week ending Aug. 21 increased by 27.2% from the same week in 2020, when the capacity utilization rate reached 65.9%.

For the year to date, U.S. steel production totaled 60,173,000 net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 80.4%. The year-to-date production total increased by 19.8% from 2020, when the rate reached 66.6% for the equivalent period.

Steel prices continue to gain

U.S. steel prices have embarked on an essentially uninterrupted rise over the last year.

While recent month-over-month gains are not hitting the double-digit marks we’ve seen over the last year, prices are still moving upward.

U.S. hot rolled coil closed Monday at $1,883 per short ton, or up 3.98% month over month. Meanwhile, U.S. cold-rolled coil closed at $2,088 per short ton, or up 4.56%.

Meanwhile, hot dipped galvanized rose by 2.97% to $2,184 per short ton.

Nucor acquires steel rack solutions provider for $370M

In steel sector M&A news, Nucor Corporation on Monday announced it had acquired Hannibal Industries, Inc., for a cash price of $370 million.

“We are excited to officially welcome our Hannibal teammates as part of the Nucor team,” said Giff Daughtridge, president of Nucor’s sheet and tubular products division. “Adding steel racking solutions to our product portfolio expands our ability to serve our customers in the fast-growing warehouse and distribution market. This acquisition complements our existing product capabilities in this area.”

Hannibal Industries, Inc., is headquartered in Los Angeles and produces 150,000 tons of steel products annually, according to information on its website.

With volatile steel markets, knowing which strategy to execute and when can make all the difference between saving and losing money. See how MetalMiner looks at different market scenarios.

So far, it has been largely Samsung cell phones or laptops batteries that have caught the media’s attention when devices have caught fire, particularly in contained locations like aircraft or offices.

But a spate of reports suggest the problem could also extend to cars, where the potential for serious consequences could be even greater — both financially and for life and limb.

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GM issues Chevy Bolt recall

lithium-ion battery

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News late last week that General Motors is to recall all 2017 to 2022 Chevy Bolt EVs for battery replacements, saying the LG-supplied batteries could have not one but two serious defects with the result they are at risk of causing fires. As a result, LG’s share price plunged by 10% overnight.

GM is to replace the battery modules after two separate incidents of batteries exploding, despite earlier assurances that it was only older Bolts with U.S.-made batteries that had the problem. The recall now also includes those fitted with batteries made in South Korea.

The implications are huge for both companies.

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While copper mine supply concerns have cropped up of late — as MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns explained recently — output during the first five months of the year rose by 4.8%, the International Copper Study Group reported Friday.

Receive the latest short-term and long-term outlook for the full range of industrial metals (base and ferrous) at the annual MetalMiner Forecasting Workshop on Aug. 25

Copper mine production

copper mine

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Global copper mine production rose by 4.8% during the first five months of the year, including a 6.5% rise in concentrate production and a 2% decline in solvent extraction-electrowinning.

No. 1 copper producer Chile saw its output drop by 2% in the five-month period. Chilean concentrate production rose by 2%, while extraction-electrowinning fell 13%.

Meanwhile, Peru, the No. 2 copper producer, saw its output rise by 17% year over year. However, Peru’s copper mine production fell by 7% compared with the equivalent five-month period in 2019.

Elsewhere, Indonesia’s copper mine production surged by 72%, mainly due to ramp-up at the Grasberg mine.

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This morning in metals news: two Chinese steelmakers are merging to form the world’s third-largest steelmaker; the LME aluminum price lost some ground last week; and, lastly, July construction employment continued to lag in the U.S.

The MetalMiner Best Practice Library offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to help buyers stay on top of metals markets and buying strategies.

Major Chinese steelmakers merge

China map

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Two Chinese steelmakers are merging to form the world’s third-largest steelmaking company, state-run news outlet Xinhua reported Friday.

Ansteel and Ben Gang Group Corporation signed a merger deal Friday, Xinhua reported.

Ansteel will have annual production capacity of 63 million metric tons after the merger. Furthermore, the firm is targeting capacity of 70 million metric tons of crude steel by 2025.

Aluminum price dips

Meanwhile, aluminum prices remain elevated, but they took a step back last week.

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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:

Receive the latest short-term and long-term outlook for the full range of industrial metals (base and ferrous) at the annual MetalMiner Forecasting Workshop on Aug. 25

Week of Aug. 16-20 (shipping sector disruptions, Chinese steel prices and more)

Shipping

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This morning in metals news: Toyota this week announced plans to slash production amid the ongoing global semiconductor shortage; unemployment rates fell in 17 states in July; and, lastly, U.S. large-scale battery storage capacity increased by 35% in 2020.

Cut-to-length adders. Width and gauge adders. Coatings. Feel confident in knowing what you should be paying for metal with MetalMiner should-cost models.

Toyota to cut production

Toyota logo

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Toyota yesterday announced plans to cut production in September, citing parts shortages stemming from the spread of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia. The automaker plans to cut its global output by 40%.

The production suspensions will impact popular models, including the RAV4 and Camry, among others.

Unemployment down in 17 states

Unemployment rates fell in 17 states in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Meanwhile, unemployment rates were stable in 33 states.

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This morning in metals news: Sweden’s SSAB has hailed the delivery this week of its first shipment of fossil-free steel; copper prices have been sliding; and, lastly, electricity demand soared last week.

The MetalMiner Best Practice Library offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to help buyers stay on top of metals markets and buying strategies.

SSAB ships ‘fossil-free’ steel

SSAB logo

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Swedish steelmaker SSAB has delivered its first shipment of fossil-free steel this week.

“SSAB has now produced the world’s first fossil-free steel and delivered it to a customer,” the firm said Wednesday. “The trial delivery is an important step on the way to a completely fossil-free value chain for iron- and steelmaking and a milestone in the HYBRIT partnership between SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall.”

As nations around the world institute carbon emissions targets, steelmaking is among the heavily polluting industries that must reduce its carbon footprint.

As such, this week’s delivery of what it calls the world’s first fossil-free steel marks a significant milestone, SSAB said.

“The first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, it represents proof that it’s possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry. We hope that this will inspire others to also want to speed up the green transition,” SSAB President and CEO Martin Lindqvist said.

Copper price slides

Despite a number of supply-side scares — as MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns explained yesterday — the copper price has been sliding.

The LME three-month copper price closed Wednesday at $9,168 per metric ton and is down 1.41% from the previous month.

The price has cooled significantly since reaching an all-time high on May 10 of over $10,700 per metric ton.

Electricity surge

Amid high temperatures around the country, electricity demand surged last week.

Electricity demand reached a high of 720 gigawatthours on Aug. 12 for the hour ending 5 p.m. EDT. That day, most of the U.S. recorded a daily high temperature above 90°F, the Energy Information Administration reported.

“Our Hourly Electric Grid Monitor shows that hourly electricity demand in the Lower 48 states reached 720 gigawatthours (GWh) for the hour ending 5:00 p.m. eastern daylight time (EDT) on that day, which is the highest reported value for a single hour since balancing authorities (BAs) began reporting hourly electricity demand to us in July 2015,” the EIA reported. “The previous hourly high was 718 GWh reported for the hour ending 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 20, 2017.”

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