Steel. Coronavirus

Comments of particular interest are noted with ‘*’.  

Matau’s Comments:  

  • World steel output (December) retains healthy growth, led by Chinese output and other Asian and emerging countries (plus USA) 
  • Base metal markets generally remain fundamentally tight, notably Cu, Zn, Pb, and are incrementally continuing to tighten.  Watch for supply disruption(s).  In 2020 there are numerous key labour negotiations at Cu operations in Chile.  Supply disruptions such as these, in absence of dramatic (geopolitical) drivers are likely to drive price responses.  
  • Comparison of the SARS outbreak in 2003 with the current Coronavirus, shows that SARS impacted passenger traffic in China much more than freight of goods.  It remains to be seen if the same parallels will appear with Coronavirus.  We do not yet have those data.  The number of Coronavirus cases to date has quickly exceeded the total number of SARS cases, though (to date) the death toll is smaller.  A huge risk with Coronavirus is that it is contagious for about 48 hours prior to symptoms showing.  It is indeed a tragic epidemic though some may be over-dramatising its economic impact(s). 


Copper  Prices have been hit by Coronavirus fears, though Cu stocks remain tight.  Deficit for 2020 outlook.

Cobalt  DRC to create a state monopoly to buy all non-industrial (artisanal) Co output.   

Nickel  China’s imports of Ni ore from Indonesia jumped in 2019 (pre-ban).

Zinc & Lead  Zn: NCZ, AON, RTR, WRM:  all progressing projects;   Pb:  E-bike outlook (in India) high cagr!   

Tin  SRZ’s scoping study puts Heemskirk in lower half of cost curve.      

Aluminium  Portland and Tomago smelters were both hit by power disruption January, adding to uncertainties.

Gold  Price up on Coronavirus fears and uncertainties, and muted USA Dept commerce reports.  

Platinum & Palladium  Premium between Pd & Pt forecast to narrow (a bit) in 2020.

Oil  WHO did not recommend travel restrictions to China, but many countries have.  OPEC is watching.

Coal  Roof fall at Moranbah.  Focus is on potential outcomes from disruptions due to Coronavirus .  

Iron Ore  Prices down on Coronavirus fears, and iron ore’s sensitivity to supply / demand disruptions.  

Shipping  Uncertainty unprecedented:  “imagine paying someone USD 11,000/day to hire your ship!”  


Coronavirus vs SARS:  Coronavirus is more widespread (# cases), but less lethal (to date) that SARS..  

World Steel:  Steel production retains positive growth, with strong Chinese output.