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Every year, the United States Trade Representative is required, pursuant to the Trade Act of 1974, to provide the president, Senate Finance Committee and certain House committees with a report on foreign barriers to trade.

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This year’s National Trade Estimate (NTE) marks the 35th iteration of the report and serves as a companion to 2020 Trade Policy Agenda and 2019 Annual Report.

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Despite the coronavirus outbreak’s widespread humanitarian and economic impact, steel production continued to chug along in February.

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According to the World Steel Association, global crude steel production reached 143.3 million tons in February, up 2.8% compared with February 2019 production.

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The usually highly liquid gold market hit turbulence last week as transport restrictions prevented contract settlement procedures at New York’s COMEX futures market.

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The Financial Times reported the price of gold futures traded on COMEX and expiring this month widened to a $70-per-ounce premium above the London physical gold market Tuesday. The spread marked the highest on record, prompted by fears the physical 100-ounce gold bars traded on the exchange would not be available as retail demand surged.

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Popular investor inclination may be that after such a dramatic fall, the oil price has to bounce back, that investor sentiment on the downside was an overreaction.

That inclination might also say after a chance for reflection has been allowed, prices will recover.

But the reality is all we can reliably expect is a period of intense volatility.

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Europe’s steelmakers are cutting production and idling factory lines as an industry already buckling under a severe market downturn girds itself for the economic fallout from coronavirus, the Financial Times reports.

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Companies such as Thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel have taken action because of falling orders, a lack of available personnel or as a safety precaution against infections, while market leader ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel producer, has reduced output at most of its plants on the continent.

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Global copper mine production dipped last year compared with 2018, according to the most recently monthly data from the International Copper Study Group (ICSG).

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Copper concentrate production declined 0.6% and solvent-extraction electrowinning fell by around 1%, the ICSG reported.

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Just as we were about to go to press with an article on the surprising resilience of seaborne iron ore and coking coal prices in Asia, the market in Asia closed yesterday with heavy falls – they beat us to it.

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Supply disruptions and what looks like an overly optimistic assessment of likely stimulus measures have supported iron ore and coking coal, despite the collapse of just about all other commodity prices.

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Significant gaps remain within societal expectations of the mining industry, a recent report from the Responsible Mining Foundation said.

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“The performances of even the best-scoring companies fall considerably short of society expectations in all six thematic areas,” the report stated, adding that all mining companies must improve their efforts to ensure company practices are efficiently managed.

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Although housing starts in the U.S. in February declined compared with January, they rose 39.2% compared with starts in January 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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Various reports hit the news feeds today quoting a deliberately headline-grabbing statement by Paul Sankey, managing director at Mizuho Securities, in which he is reported as saying, “Oil prices can go negative.”

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That is, they could as a combination of Saudi Arabia (and Russia) flooding the market with increased oil and the market running headlong into COVID-19-induced curtailment of activity that is suppressing consumption, which combined will create the perfect storm of excess supply.

In reality, inventory levels are already rising.

CNN quotes Sankey, who said global oil demand is only around 100 million barrels per day.

However, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could crash demand by up to 20%.

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