This morning in metals news: the Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users called on the Biden administration to rescind the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs; meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration forecasts US energy-related CO2 emissions to rise after the mid-2030s; and, lastly, US President Joe Biden spoke this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
CAMMU urges Biden to ends Section 232 tariffs
The Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users (CAMMU) sent President Joe Biden a letter Wednesday urging him remove the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.
In 2018, former President Donald Trump imposed the tariffs of 25% for steel and 10% for aluminum.
“By taking action to terminate the Trump tariffs, your Administration can prevent U.S. manufacturers from shutting down production lines, laying off workers, and potentially even closing their doors,” CAMMU said in the letter. “By contrast, the ripple effects of allowing these Section 232 tariffs to remain are substantial. Our member companies report not only record steel prices, but also delivery times stretching 12-16 weeks, causing significant disruptions.”
As we noted previously, however, Biden reversed Trump’s decision to rescind the tariff on aluminum from the UAE (a move he made on his final day in office).
The Aluminum Monthly Metals Index (MMI) increased by 2.1% this month, as LME aluminum prices traded sideways and the US reinstated the Section 232 aluminum tariff on imports from the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. aluminum reinstates aluminum tariff on UAE
On Feb. 1, President Joe Biden reinstated the 10% aluminum tariff on imports from the United Arab Emirates.
Former President Donald Trump had lifted the aluminum tariff on his last day in office. The reinstated aluminum tariff went into effect Feb. 3.
The reinstatement suggests that it is unlikely the Biden administration will remove the aluminum tariffs imposed by the previous administration. However, as of today, no further decisions were announced on aluminum tariffs.
In addition, Biden’s “Buy American” plans could impact the U.S. domestic aluminum market. The plan will likely promote the manufacturing of essential components in construction, appliances and electronics in the US.
These measures are welcomed at the primary production level. However, not all end-product manufacturers are on board, as they claim these government interventions will artificially inflate the Midwest Premium.
The new administration also announced the delay of the effective date of the Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis (AIM) system that the U.S. Department of Commerce created. The Department of Commerce originally said the system would be available Jan. 25. However, it is delaying the launch until March 29. Licenses will not be required for covered aluminum imports until the new effective date.
A Midwest-based trader told Construction & Demolition Recycling that demand for aluminum scrap remains high at secondary smelters that supply the automotive industry in the US
Chad Kripke, an executive vice president of Kripke Enterprise, a nonferrous scrap brokerage firm, confirmed that many sellers are relying on the spot market rather than signing contracts for 2021. This signals that it is a seller’s market.
This market environment is due to the reduced flows of scrap, which has caused spreads to tighten. As a result, secondary producers are opting to purchase scrap at what they might view as high prices rather than risking a lack of material.
Besides the U.S. Midwest Premium Futures, the platform now includes prices for some of the most common forms of aluminum sheet and coil. It includes prices for: 1100 H14, 3003 H14, 5052 H32, 5083 H321, 6061 T6 and 6061 T651.
Price data goes back to Jan. 1, 2020.
Actual metals prices and trends
The Chinese aluminum scrap price increased 0.4% month over month to $2,067/mt as of Feb. 1. Meanwhile, LME primary three-month aluminum increased 0.4% to $1,988/mt.
Korean commercial 1050 aluminum sheet remained flat at $3.30/kg. However, its European equivalent increased 8.3% to $2,948/mt.
Chinese aluminum billet and aluminum bar rose 0.4% to $2,389/mt and $2,489/mt, respectively.
Chinese primary cash aluminum dropped 2.4% to $2,365/mt. Meanwhile, its Indian counterpart declined 2.2% to $2.24/kg.
This morning in metals news: US mines produced approximately $82.3 billion in minerals in 2020; meanwhile, the United States International Trade Commission launched a Section 337 investigation related to batteries; and, lastly, aluminum prices have been dropping.
US mines produced $82.3 billion in minerals in 2020
The totaled marked a decline of $1.5 billion from 2019.
“Decision-makers and leaders in both the private and public sectors rely on the crucial, unbiased statistics and data provided in the Mineral Commodity Summaries to make business decisions and determine national policy,” said Steven M. Fortier, director of the National Minerals Information Center. “Industries—such as steel, aerospace and electronics—that use nonfuel mineral materials created an estimated $3.03 trillion in value-added products in 2020, which represents a 3% decrease from that in 2019.”
The US, however, continues to be heavily import-dependent for many raw and processed minerals. According to the USGS, imports made up more than half of US consumption of 46 nonfuel mineral commodities. Furthermore, the US was totally import-dependent for 17 of those.
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USITC launches Section 337 battery investigation
The USITC announced it had launched a Section 337 probe involving potential patent infringements related to batteries, citing 13 Chinese firms as respondents in the case.
This morning in metals news: the Aluminum Association outlined the issues it hopes the Biden administration will take on; in addition, Alcoa recently reported its Q4 2020 and full-year results; and, finally, the oil price retraced slightly this week.
Aluminum Association: aluminum can be part of ‘American comeback’ story
“We congratulate President Biden and look forward to working with him and his team in the coming months and years,” said Tom Dobbins, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association, in a release. “During this challenging time for our nation, it is critically important that we all work together toward renewal and recovery. A strong and growing domestic aluminum industry can play a role in the American comeback story.”
The brief refers to energy, environment, infrastructure, recycling and trade as key areas for aluminum.
“The single biggest threat to U.S. aluminum remains unfairly subsidized overcapacity in China,” the brief states. “Strong, targeted trade enforcement is vital to the U.S. aluminum industry’s ability to compete on a market-based, level playing field. The Aluminum Association supports renewed cooperation with traditional trading partners and allies to address this perennial issue.”
Furthermore, the Aluminum Association cited the need to improve recycling levels from consumer applications.
This morning in metals news: Rio Tinto’s iron ore shipments rose 2% year over year in Q4 2020; the Energy Information Administration forecast 2021 will see less power generation from natural gas this year; after rising during the first week of 2021, the LME three-month aluminum price has since been sliding.
This morning in metals news: Turquoise Hill Resources offered an update on the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine expansion project; renewable power generation will continue to rise this year in the U.S.; and the aluminum price has traded sideways over the last month.
The fate of the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine expansion project is up in the air, as it could face termination from the Mongolian government.
Turquoise Hill Resources, which is majority-owned by miner Rio Tinto, jointly owns the massive project with the Mongolian government. The parties reached a financing plan for the project in 2015.
However, the Mongolian government appears to be concerned about runaway costs for the project.
“In addition, the Government of Mongolia has advised Rio Tinto that it is dissatisfied with the results of the Definitive Estimate, which was completed and delivered by Rio Tinto and publicly announced by the Company on December 18, 2020, and is concerned that the significant increase in the development costs of the Oyu Tolgoi project has eroded the economic benefits it anticipated to receive therefrom,” Turquoise Hill said in a statement. “The Government of Mongolia has indicated that if the Oyu Tolgoi project is not economically beneficial to the country, it would be necessary to review and evaluate whether it can proceed.”
“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest inventory of electricity generators, developers and power plant owners plan for 39.7 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generating capacity to start commercial operation in 2021,” the EIA reported. “Solar will account for the largest share of new capacity at 39%, followed by wind at 31%. About 3% of the new capacity will come from the new nuclear reactor at the Vogtle power plant in Georgia.”
Aluminum trends flat
After surging throughout most of the second half of 2020, the aluminum price has slowed down of late.
The LME three-month aluminum price is up just 0.22% over the last month. The price closed Friday at $2,032 per metric ton.
On Dec. 23, 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the creation of the Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis (AIM) system.
The system, similar to the Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) system, will collect and publish data on aluminum imports into the U.S.
The system will allow users to track trade flows more easily to help spot trends earlier and to provide better guidance to the domestic industry and government. Likewise, better data collection and its analysis should allow domestic producers to compete on a level playing field.
The system is expected to be available on Jan. 25, 2021.
LME aluminum changes
The London Metal Exchange announced its intention to move forward with its sustainability strategy after receiving market feedback. Part of the strategy will include a spot trading platform for price research and trading of low-carbon aluminum for interested buyers and sellers.
As part of this strategy, the LMEpassport, a digital credential register, will be launched to allow greater visibility of carbon sustainability criteria.
The LME will implement it gradually over three years across its physically settled metals requiring Certificates of Analysis (CoAs) and other value-add information to facilitate disclosure under existing standards across metal brands. The service will start in 2021 and will initially focus on aluminum.
Today, we’ll take a look at aluminum, which has also been on the rise in the second half of the year. The LME three-month price bottomed out at $1,460 per metric ton in April. Since then, however, the price has surged, reaching as high as $2,062 per metric ton in early December.
Like steel, prices have continued to rise. Will that trend continue in 2020? That remains to be seen, of course. However, as MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns outlined in October, Goldman Sachs is bullish on commodities in 2021.
Before we turn the page, let’s first take a look back at the best of 2020.
This morning in metals news: U.S. Steel sold the Keystone Industrial Port Complex for $160 million; ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel will build a new electric arc furnace at their joint venture in Alabama; and, finally, the aluminum price has retraced slightly in December.
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U.S. Steel sells Keystone Industrial Port Complex
U.S. Steel recently announced it has closed on the sale of its Keystone Port Industrial Complex in Fairness Hills, Pennsylvania.
The sales of the “non-core real estate asset” comes for $160 million.
The steelmaker it expects production to begin in the first half of 2023.
The Calvert facility is a 50:50 joint venture of the two firms.
“Calvert currently produces steel sheet products by processing semi-finished products (slabs) procured from domestic and overseas suppliers,” Nippon Steel said in a Dec. 22 announcement. “With the newly-built EAF, Calvert will be able to manufacture by itself part of slabs necessary to produce its steel sheet products and will strive for further strengthening its competitiveness through advantages of the self-manufacture, such as shortening lead time in slab procurement, improving its productivity through utilization of self-manufactured high temperature slabs, and increasing the domestic procurement ratio of slabs.”
Aluminum pulls back
Like many metals, aluminum has been on a steady rise since May.
However, in December, aluminum has pulled back a little bit.
The LME three-month aluminum price remains up 2.2% month over month after closing last week at $2,025 per metric ton. Meanwhile, the metal started the month just north of $2,060 per metric ton.
Chinese aluminum sector sees rising bauxite, alumina imports
A recent post by ING notes China’s strong imports in aluminum-related raw materials — notably bauxite and alumina — continued in the second half.
Bauxite imports in the first 10 months grew by 14% year over year to around 96 million metric tons. Total alumina imports, meanwhile, rose by 205% to 3.1 million tons.
As we reported last month, primary metal imports, while easing now, have been a surprise feature this summer. Total imports in the first 10 months hitting 878 ktons, or 14 times higher than the same period last year, ING reports.