World Steel – USA

Comments of particular interest are noted with ‘*’.  

Matau’s Comments:

  • Market activity is refocussing on fundamentals with clear responses in prices of select commodities that are in demand. 
  • Base metal markets are tightening further. (pinch points & prices).  Notably Ni & Cu.  Sn is starting to move too.
    • Pinchpoint graphs (based on exchange stocks) continue to highlight tightness in markets for Cu & Ni in particular.
  • Gold data shows the impact of Covid-19 on demand segments, notably jewellery, which is now recovering.  Central banks had also stopped buying as the price increased, and in fact some lightened holdings.
  • Demand is increasing in key industrial nations (USA, Japan & Europe … in addition to China’s already demonstrated domestic recovery … with further potential pending its export customers’ recoveries).   
    • Most recently Tesla is having to slow its rollout of some models (trucks) as it is short of key battery minerals (Li, CO, Ni, graphite). 
  • Covid-19 is far from peaking, as more is learned about emerging mutating strains, and is still disrupting transport and commercial businesses.


*Copper  Market focus in 2021 will move to world ex-China demand and supply risks.

*Cobalt  Battery metals (Li, Co, Ni, graphite) supply is tight as battery demand surges at Tesla.  

*Nickel  Outlook for near term demand surge from stainless steel, an mid-term from EVs.

Zinc & Lead  Zn price hit by huge inventory surge (from shadow stocks) onto LME.  Pb’s USA price premiums surged on demand.  

*Tin  Price increased on a shortfall due to demand for solder.  Forecast deficit for 2021. 

Aluminium  Japan’s Al production down for the third year. Imports of ingots also fell.

*Gold  Jewellery demand hit by Covid mid-2020, but is recovering (WGC data). 

Platinum & Palladium  Demand for platinum is poised to outstrip supply.

*Oil  Biden Administration has ‘paused’ oil & gas permitting, though permits continue to be awarded. 

Coal  Bans on imports from Australia identified as being political, not economic in origin. 

Iron Ore  Prices are high though have dipped from peaks, ahead of Chinese New Year (11-17 Feb). 

Shipping  Freight rates were mixed this week. 


*World Steel:  China remains a major growth source, but the rest-of-world has positive growth too.  As elsewhere this week, the world ex-China deserves monitoring as it is beginning to move.

*Singapore Shipping traffic: Containers & Tankers positive growth,  Bulks negative growth.

*USA – Electricity End Use & Bond Yields:  Electricity has plateaued.  Bond yields low to 2023.

*USA – Housing Starts:  Positive growth, back to approximately pre-covid levels.

*USA – Durable Goods, Vehicles & Electronics:  Durables growth was down (negative), Vehicles up.   Durable goods orders are traditionally a leading indicator for industrial activity & production.