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.
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
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
“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.
Unusually, the global steel market is diverging in the opposite direction from “normal.”
Historically, China would show signs of strength driven by robust construction activity while Europe and the U.S. struggled, facing more mature markets and relatively higher levels of foreign penetration.
The U.S. continues to power ahead. There, mill lead times remain stubbornly protracted.
Meanwhile, China is showing all kinds of uncertainty — much of it self-inflicted.
Although much was made of China’s ambitions to reduce emissions over the coming decade, after an initial flurry of anxiety the industry settled back to assume changes would be eased in gradually.
Indeed, Beijing even sought to play down the rate at which changes would be imposed following a sudden spike in prices as expectations of steel shortages took hold.
But over the last couple of weeks, it is becoming clear that cutbacks are happening. Output in the second half of the year is expected to be considerably less than the record first half.
Iron ore has taken a cue from both the message and the reality of cooling demand. Prices for 62% iron ore has dropped from the low 1,500s RMB/metric ton in early July to the mid-1,100s today on the Dalian exchange.
This morning in metals news: the pace of the rise of U.S. import prices slowed in July compared with the previous month; meanwhile, Nucor completed the acquisition of an insulated metal panels business; and, lastly, U.S. steel prices continue to move upward.
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US import prices up 0.3% in July
U.S. import prices jumped by 0.3% in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Higher fuel prices drove the July jump, according to the BLS.
Meanwhile, import prices surged by 1.1% in June.
On the other hand, U.S. export prices rose by 1.3% in July after a 1.2% jump in June.
Executive order on zero emissions, electric vehicles
On Thursday, Aug. 5, President Joe Biden’s office announced its intention to sign an executive order that sets a “new target to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric or fuel cell electric vehicles.”
The announcement was well-received by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), as this executive order will boost domestic demand for steel. AISI CEO Kevin Dempsey said “the use of American-made steel, which is the cleanest in the world, will be key in the transition to EVs.”
As for the bipartisan infrastructure deal, the Senate voted 69-30 on Tuesday to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure package.
The world’s largest steel producer and exporter, China, is actively contemplating adding more curbs to halt environment pollution which, most likely, will reduce its steel output and dampen exports.
That’s good news for some of China’s neighbors steel-producing rivals, India and Japan.
Stop obsessing about the actual forecasted steel price. It’s more important to spot the trend.
The China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) warned on its Wechat channel last Sunday of impending cuts in crude steel output along with government-led environmental checks.
Daily crude-steel output at major mills fell 5.6% in the first 10 days of July from June, Bloomberg reported. These were at steel plants in Shanxi, Hubei and Hebei provinces, and mills including China Baowu Steel Group and HBIS Group.
While global steel production levels remain well ahead of levels seen at the same time last year — when the COVID-19 was still only in its early days and demand had not yet had a chance to bounce back — output levels in June did fall compared with the previous month.
Global steel production dropped 4.0% from May’s 174.8 million net tons.
However, global output rose by 11.6% on a year-over-year basis. June 2020 production totaled 150.4 million net tons.
Chinese steel production drops
Top steel producer China also saw its steel production fall in June compared with the previous month.
China, which has moved to curb steel production in efforts to meet emissions targets, produced 93.9 million tons in June. The total marked a 5.6% decline from 99.5 million tons in May.
MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns weighed in on the recent steel price rally in China and the impact of production cut mandates from Beijing.
“Since prices came off they have been making a steady recovery,” he wrote. “Beijing’s pressure to curb excess production capacity as part of wider environmental targets raises the prospect of material shortages in the face of still robust demand.”
The Chinese cold rolled coil price surged above $1,100 per metric ton in May before plunging after Beijing’s attempt to curb prices by issuing a warning to speculators. The price proceeded to drop to around $930 per ton but has since recovered. The Chinese CRC price closed Monday at $996 per metric ton.
Chinese hot rolled coil has followed a similar trajectory, closing Monday at $915 per metric ton.
Around the world
No. 2 steel producer India churned out 9.4 million tons in June, up 21.4% year over year.
Meanwhile, Japan’s output rose 44.4% year over year to 8.1 million tons.
In addition, U.S. production rose 44.4% to 7.1 million tons. Estimated Russian production reached 6.4 million tons, or up 11.4% year over year.
Furthermore, through May, U.S. steel imports totaled 10.7 million metric tons, up 7% from 10.0 million through the first five months of 2020.
Pacing the June rise was a jump in imports of blooms, billets and slabs. Imports of the category reached 795,863 metric tons in June, up 31.7% from 604,340 metric tons in May. Meanwhile, the June total rose a whopping 1,000% compared with June 2020.
Imports of oil country goods jumped 35.2% from May to 154,073 metric tons in June.
In addition, imports of hot rolled sheets jumped by 50.7% to 311,461 metric tons in June. Imports of steel rebar rose 12.0% to 94,915 metric tons.
MetalMiner experts recently joined ROTH Capital Partners for a webinar that covered a wide range of metals topics, including oil prices, macroeconomic trends, and insights into the aluminum, steel and copper markets.
The webinar, which took place July 14, followed up on a previous MetalMiner-Roth webinar on May 20, 10 days after metals surged to record highs. Copper, for example, reached an all-time on May 10. MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman and Vice President of Business Solutions Don Hauser joined to share their insights on various markets, recapping metals movements in the two months since that peak.
This morning in metals news: ArcelorMittal said it plans to make its Sestao plant zero carbon emissions; meanwhile, the Producer Price Index for final demand increased by 1.0% in June; and, lastly, U.S. steel prices continue to rise.
ArcelorMittal announces aim to build zero-carbon-emissions Sestao steel plant
ArcelorMittal this week said it plans to make its steel plant in Sestao, Spain, the “world’s first full-scale zero carbon-emissions steel plant.”
“The development is the result of a memorandum of understanding signed today with the Government of Spain that will see an investment of €1 billion in the construction of a green hydrogen direct reduced iron (DRI) plant at its plant in Gijón, as well as a new hybrid electric arc furnace (EAF),” ArcelorMittal said.
The steelmaker said the new DRI plant will have capacity of 2.3 million metric tons. Of that total, 1 million metric tons would go to Sestao to be used as feedstocks in its electric arc furnaces (EAFs).
PPI up 1.0%
Elsewhere, the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand increased by 1.0% in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.