Author Archives: Dr. Milton Ankunding

U.S. steel imports reached an estimated 2.6 million metric tons in June, the Census Bureau reported today.

The total marked a jump of 13% from the 2.3 million metric tons the U.S. imported in May.

US steel imports rise

steelmaking in an EAF

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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.

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This morning in metals news: Steel Dynamics Inc. released its second-quarter results, during which it tallied $4.5 billion in net sales; Nucor Corporation also released its Q2 results; and, lastly, miner Rio Tinto signed a renewable energy agreement in Madagascar.

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

Steel Dynamics records Q2 net income of $702M

earnings sign

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Steel Dynamics reported Q2 net income of $702 million, up from $75 million in Q2 2020.

“During the second quarter, steel demand remained robust as shipments and product pricing continued their positive momentum across our entire steel platform,” said Mark Millett, chairman and CEO. “Higher steel selling values drove significant metal spread expansion across the entire platform and were most prominent within the flat roll steel operations, as continued demand strength and historically low customer inventories persisted throughout the supply chain and supported prices. Domestic steel consumption was strong from the automotive, construction, and industrial sectors, while the energy sector continued to show signs of rebounding.”

The company recorded Q2 2021 net sales of $4.5 billion, up from $2.1 billion in Q2 2020.

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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, including competition between the COMEX and LME vis-á-vis electrification, consolidating copper prices, the upcoming MetalMiner 2020 Forecasting Workshop and much more:

Each month, MetalMiner hosts a webinar on a specific metals topic. Explore the upcoming webinars and sign up for each on the MetalMiner Events page.

Week of July 19-23 (electrification, hot rolled coil prices in Western Europe and much more)

electric vehicle charging

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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

This morning in metals news: South Korean steelmaker POSCO reported its strongest operating profit in Q2 since Q3 2010; the United States International Trade Commission made a determination regarding steel wire mesh from Mexico; and, lastly, tin prices have been soaring.

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.

POSCO records strong Q2

POSCO logo

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South Korean steelmaker POSCO reported its strongest operating profit since 2010 in the second quarter of this year.

The steelmaker reported Q2 2020 operating profit of 168 billion KRW ($145.6 million), which jumped to 2,201 billion KRW ($1.9 billion) in Q2 2021.

Crude steel production reached 9.45 million tons in Q2 at a capacity utilization rate of 93.2%. Meanwhile, the steelmaker tallied 9.56 million tons in Q1 at a rate of 95.3%.

However, the Q2 rate marked a sizeable jump from the second quarter of 2020, when output reached 7.79 million tons at rate of 77.0%.

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This morning in metals news: copper prices have stabilized over the last month; U.S. natural gas prices have surged to their highest level since 2014; and, lastly, Cleveland-Cliffs released its second-quarter results.

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 prices stabilize

list of commodities prices

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MetalMiner Senior Forecast Analyst Maria Rosa Gobitz earlier this month covered the copper market, for which she noted prices had started to consolidate.

The LME three-month copper price had surged to an all-time high May 10 of around $10,700 per metric ton. The price proceeded to cool over the next 5-6 weeks, falling as low as $9,070 per metric ton.

The copper price then consolidated and has traded largely sideways over the last month. On Wednesday, the price closed at $9,244 per metric ton, or up 1.92% month over month, per MetalMiner Insights data.

Natural gas prices surge

Meanwhile, in energy news, U.S. natural gas prices have reached their highest level since 2014, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

“In June, the U.S. natural gas spot price at the Henry Hub averaged $3.26 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), the highest price during any summer month (April–September) since 2014,” the EIA reported. “Prices in July have increased from June, averaging $3.67/MMBtu through the first two weeks of July. Spot prices for July 14 in every one of the more than 175 pricing hubs tracked by Natural Gas Intelligence exceeded $3.00/MMBtu.”

Cleveland-Cliffs releases Q2 results

Cleveland-Cliffs reported net income of $795 million during Q2 2021, compared with a loss of $108 million during Q2 2020.

“In the second quarter of 2021 we achieved all-time quarterly records in revenue, net income, and adjusted EBITDA,” Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves said. “The numbers unequivocally confirm our efficiency in operating the new footprint, resulting from the integration of the two major steel companies acquired in 2020 as a single and indivisible mining and steel company. They also demonstrate our flawless execution in ramping up our state-of-the-art Direct Reduction plant in Toledo to the current level of production above nominal capacity.”

Each month, MetalMiner hosts a webinar on a specific metals topic. Explore the upcoming webinars and sign up for each on the MetalMiner Events page.

The past year since the last MetalMiner Forecasting Workshop has been a turbulent one for metals markets.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, plummeting demand, plant idlings, fast-recovering demand in certain sectors, bullwhip effects, material shortages, rising prices, rising delivery premiums — on and on and on. For metals buyers, planning out metals spend — let alone getting any material at all — proved to be a challenging proposition.

But now, well over a year into the pandemic, economic conditions are improving, broadly, in the United States.

It’s time to take a look at the year ahead.

As MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman and Don Hauser, vice president, business solutions, noted during a recent ROTH Capital Partners webinar that we remain in a bull market for metals, even as some have recently shown signs of consolidation. Copper, for example, has fallen off after reaching an all-time high in May. Steel prices continue to rise, but at a less frenetic pace than previously.

So, what does it all mean for metals buyers planning out their spend for the year ahead?

MetalMiner 2022 Forecasting Workshop

MetalMiner Forecasting Workshop details

Industrial buying organizations can get a leg up on their budgeting and forecasting for the year ahead during this year’s virtual MetalMiner 2022 Forecasting Workshop, scheduled for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. CST, Aug. 25, 2021.

MetalMiner experts Reisman, Hauser, Editor-at-large Stuart Burns, Senior Forecast Analyst Maria Rosa Gobitz and Principal Data Analyst Marcos Briones Álvarez will lead the three-hour workshop.

Participants will gain insights into, among other things:

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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.

bull market

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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.

If you missed it live, register here to receive a copy of the webinar recording to hear all of Reisman and Hauser’s insights from the hourlong webinar.

On July 28, get a sneak peek of the MetalMiner annual budgeting and forecasting workshop (a three-hour virtual event that will take place in August 2021). Get ready to plan for 2022. 

Bull market

While prices have come off of the record highs seen in May, they remain elevated. In short, we remain in a bull market.

“We are still in a bull market,” Reisman said. “The nonferrous metals are taking a pause but unless we see them start to fall off toward support levels … they’re still in a bull market.”

However, in terms of the “supercycle” narrative — which we have covered in this space previously — MetalMiner remains skeptical.

“The reason we’re struggling with the big supercycle narrative is that we would expect to see a decade, 1o years, of sustained, upward demand,” she said. “We don’t quite see that.”

With that said, metals demand currently is strong across a range of industries.

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This morning in metals news: global aluminum production rose in June compared to last year, the International Aluminum Institute reported; Ford of Europe reported its Q2 sales; and, lastly, June electricity demand surged amid a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.

Each month, MetalMiner hosts a webinar on a specific metals topic. Explore the upcoming webinars and sign up for each on the MetalMiner Events page.

Global aluminum production rises in June

aluminum ingot

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Global aluminum production reached 5.55 million tons in June, the International Aluminum Institute reported Tuesday.

The June total marked an increase from 5.31 million tons in June 2020. However, output declined from the 5.75 million tons tallied in May 2021.

Furthermore, China’s output reached an estimated 3.25 million tons in June 2021, up from 3.03 million tons in June 2020. However, its output declined from May’s 3.35 million tons.

Ford reports Q2 Europe sales

Meanwhile, Ford of Europe touted sales of 242,618 vehicles in Q2 2021, up 43.7% year over year.

For the year to date (through June), Ford of Europe reported sales jumped 22.6% year over year.

According to the automaker, 46% of its passenger vehicle sales in Euro 20 countries in the second quarter were electric vehicles.

Electricity demand jumps in PNW

Amid a historic heat wave for the Pacific Northwest in June, electricity demand surged, the Energy Information Administration reported.

“A heat wave in the Northwest United States in late June led to more regional demand for electricity. During periods of high temperatures, electricity demand increases as people turn up their air conditioners, dehumidifiers, fans, and other cooling equipment,” the EIA reported. “Very high temperature events, like the one in June in the Northwest, tend to push electricity demand to very high levels.”

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

This morning in metals news: the U.S. steel capacity utilization rate rose to 84.1% last week; privately owned housing starts jumped in June; and, lastly, Pedro Castillo has been declared president-election in Peru.

Does your company have a steel buying strategy based on current steel price trends?

US steel capacity utilization rises to 84.1%

hot rolled steel

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The U.S. steel capacity utilization rate continues to rise, jumping to 84.1% for the week ending July 17, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported.

The sector churned out 1.86 million net tons during the week. The output total marked an increase of 0.4% from the previous week and 37.7% year over year.

For the year to date, output reached 50.8 million net tons at a capacity utilization rate of 79.6%.

Housing starts jump in June

Meanwhile, privately owned housing starts reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.64 million in June, the Census Bureau reported.

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Prices for hot rolled coil in Western Europe have started to slow on subdued demand, due to the summer season and competitive import offers, market participants told MetalMiner.

Each month, MetalMiner hosts a webinar on a specific metals topic. Explore the upcoming webinars and sign up for each on the MetalMiner Events page.

Hot rolled coil prices slow

hot-rolled coil steel

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The flat rolled product has transacted in the past week at closer to €1,200 ($1,415) per metric ton exw for November delivery. That compares with a price range of €1,150-1,200 in late June, sources said.

Producers sought to push HRC prices up to €1,250 ($1,475), one trading source told MetalMiner. End users, however, did not accept the increase.

Severe flooding late last week in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state, however, have created logistics disruptions in those areas. This prompted ThyssenKrupp Steel to declare on Friday a force majeure on its deliveries, a spokeswoman for the German group told MetalMiner.

“That doesn’t help the supply for sure” as it could tighten the market and mitigate any price declines, the analyst warned.

Higher temperatures in the European summer as well as workers and businesses taking holidays in July and August, resulting in lower activity, are now putting pressure on prices for the flat rolled products.

The import market is also adding pressure to local prices, however, sources noted.

Offers on HRC from mills in Japan, Indonesia and Taiwan are about $1,170-1,200 per ton CFR European ports for September/October delivery.

“I think that it is fair to say that import activity will pick up,” one analyst said.

Lead times on the domestic market are in some cases as far out as Q1 of 2022, he added.

Uncertainty over imports

The analyst warned, however, that it is for now uncertain what kind of impact Russia’s planned introduction of a 15% export tax from Aug. 1 on all steel products – semis and finished – would have on import markets into Europe.

China is also weighing the introduction of an export tax on its steel exports in order to cool its domestic market, one source said, after canceling in May the export rebate on the 13% value-added tax failed to bring the desired effect, sources noted.

Meanwhile, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, opened up an antidumping investigation in June on hot dipped galvanized coil imports from Russia and Turkey. That prompted producers in those two countries to increase offer volumes, the trader said.

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