steel price

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Steel rebar is a crucial material for its use in construction, which is often cited in surveys of general economic health and activity.

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For instance, U.S. construction spending in December reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,327.7 billion, down 0.2% from November and up 5.0% compared with December 2018 spending.

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There were two major developments in the Indian steel sector this week.

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Indian-born British businessman Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance made its first foray into the Indian market. It completed the strategic acquisition of two mills, Adhunik Metaliks Ltd and Zion Steel, in an approximately U.S. $60 million (Rs 425 crore) cash deal.

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This morning in metals news, Indiana again led the way in U.S. steel production last year, Tesla is in talks to use cobalt-free batteries in its cars made in China and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects U.S. natural gas production will continue to rise over the next 30 years.

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On the face of it, there appears to be a disconnect between the state of China’s steel market and the price of seaborne iron ore.

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Not surprisingly, the steel sector in China is one of many going through acute uncertainty at the moment over fears the coronavirus spreading from Wuhan is still not under control.

As a result, it is becoming increasingly apparent steel demand is going to be down for some time to come.

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The popular wisdom was this virus would peak in a week or so and a falling rate of infection would encourage relaxation of travel bans and some return to normality.

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The Raw Steels Monthly Metals Index (MMI) gave up some of last month’s gains with a one-point drop to 71 (following a three-point increase to 72 last month).

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Recent U.S. steel price increases flattened out in January, while plate prices dropped back somewhat from recent price highs.

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India’s union budget is an annual exercise, one that industry and commerce always look forward to for direction and signals of growth.

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India’s metals sector, especially steel, had expectations from this year’s budget and seems to not be disappointed with the final document.

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The Construction Monthly Metals Index (MMI) traded flat this month for a February MMI reading of 79.

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U.S. construction spending

U.S. spending on construction reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,327.7 billion in December, marking a 0.2% drop from November but a 5.0% increase on a year-over-year basis.

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The Automotive Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell three points for a February MMI reading of 86.

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U.S. automotive sales

General Motors is scheduled to announce its Q4 and full-year 2019 sales results today at 8 a.m. ET.

Ford, meanwhile, reported fourth-quarter sales of 601,862 vehicles, marking a 1.3% year-over-year decline. Ford truck sales, however, surged 15.9% for the automaker’s best Q4 for truck sales since 2001. For the full year, Ford truck sales rose 9.1%, with 1.24 million vehicles sold.

Fiat Chrysler Q4 sales amounted to 542,519 vehicles, down 2% on a year-over-year basis, while full-year sales slipped 1%. The automaker’s Ram brand saw an 18% year-over-year increase in 2019.

Nissan announced Feb. 3 it will also move to a quarterly reporting schedule and will release its first quarterly sales results in early April. Last month, Nissan reported 2019 sales of 1.35 million vehicles, down 9.9% from the previous year.

Meanwhile, for the automakers still reporting on a monthly basis, Honda reported January sales of 101,625 vehicles, down 4.3% on a year-over-year basis.  Car sales were down 10.6%, while truck sales ticked up 1%.

Last month, Toyota Motor North America reported December sales fell 6.1% on a volume basis and 2.4% on a daily selling rate basis. Toyota’s 2019 U.S. sales reached 2.38 million vehicles, down 1.8% from the previous year.

J.D. Power, LMC Automotive forecast January drop

According to a forecast released jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, January retail sales in the U.S. are projected to drop 0.4% on a year-over-year basis.

“In a retail market that is expected to decline for the fifth consecutive year, it’s important to remember that January is typically the lowest sales month of the year,” said Thomas King, president of J.D. Power’s data and analytics division.

According to the forecast, January sales account for just 6.3% of annual sales.

Meanwhile, the consultancies are forecasting full-year 2020 retail sales of 13.48 million units, which would mark a decline of 205,000 units from 2018.

Sales slump in China

GM reported sales of 3.09 million vehicles in China in 2019, down 15% from sales of 3.64 million vehicles in 2018 (during which sales fell 9.8% compared to 2017).

“General Motors and its joint ventures delivered more than 3.09 million vehicles in China in 2019, amid a challenging environment with weakened consumer demand,” the automaker said. “The company continued the transformation of its portfolio, including luxury vehicles, large SUVs, and the ongoing development and rollout of its new energy vehicle (NEV) lineup.”

Ford’s sales dropped 26.1% in 2019 compared to the previous year, with 567,854 vehicles sold. Fourth-quarter sales dropped 14.7% year over year.

“2019 was a challenging year for the Chinese automotive market and for Ford in China,” said Anning Chen, president and CEO of Ford Greater China. “While our sales declined primarily in the value segment, the decline continued to narrow in the second half and saw the stabilization of our shares in the high-to-premium segments. The pressure from the external environment and downward trend of the industry volume will continue in 2020, and we will put more efforts into strengthening our product lineup with more customer-centric products and customer experiences to mitigate the external pressure and improve dealers’ profitability.”

GM announces $2.2B investment in Detroit-Hamtramck for EVs

In another marker of building momentum for the electric vehicle revolution, GM recently announced plans to invest $2.2 billion in its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly to make it the automaker’s first plant devoted exclusively to the production of electric vehicles.

The plant, which currently produces the Cadillac CT6 and the Chevrolet Impala, will shift toward production of electric trucks and SUVs.

Originally opening in 1985, Detroit-Hamtramck will be temporarily idled at the end of this month in order to allow for renovations, GM said.

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Actual metals prices and trends

U.S. HDG rose 1.7% month over month to $847/st as of Feb. 1.

LME three-month copper fell 10.1% to $5,588/mt. U.S. shredded scrap steel rose 6.5% to $296/st.

The Korean 5052 aluminum coil premium fell 3.7% to $3.10/kg.

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U.S. steel production for the week ending Feb. 1, 2020, reached 1.91 million tons, up 1.9% from production during the same week in 2019, according to weekly data released by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

Production for the week ending Feb. 1, 2020, came in at a capacity utilization rate of 82.1%.

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