Viewpoints 2020: Metals

Author Argus

Metals markets around the world continue to see regional events impact global supply and demand patterns, from Brexit and political volatility in Turkey, to an ever-evolving Chinese market.

This year’s Viewpoints series gives attention to the most significant market-moving factors in across sub-markets and regions.

Want to keep an eye on global metals prices and news throughout the year? Sign up for the free Argus Metals newsletter to learn more.

Ferrous Metals

Viewpoint: European HRC pricing mechanism failing
It is common practice in the European hot-rolled coil market for mills and buyers to settle contracts against indices that publish once a month.

Viewpoint: Brexit weighs on UK rebar fabricators
UK rebar fabricators are concerned about the availability of Cares-approved material under the European steel safeguard, with Brexit potentially clouding the situation further once the transition period ends.

Viewpoint: Capesizes to see 2020 iron ore pressure
West Africa's two leading oil producers face rather contrasting challenges in the early part of 2020, when Nigeria will need to find a way to keep its monthly output under the Opec+ production cap and Angola will struggle to even reach its own.

Viewpoint: China to provide floor for pig iron
Global basic pig iron prices are widely expected to remain elevated through the first half of 2020, supported by a floor on demand from rising interest in China.

Viewpoint: European scrap set for strong start to 2020
Limited scrap stocks, slow flows to yards and healthy domestic and export demand are likely to drive European domestic ferrous scrap prices higher early in 2020.

Viewpoint: Indian steel demand awaits economic stimulus
Increased spending on infrastructure and a gradual recovery in some downstream sectors could spur Indian steel demand in 2020.

Viewpoint: Low payables squeeze stainless scrap supply
European suppliers will face increasing difficulty in sourcing stainless steel scrap in 2020 if mills continue to drive down the already record-low level of nickel payables in feedstocks.

Viewpoint: Navigating headwinds in US coking coal
With the average price of US high-volatile type A coking coal at close to $200/t fob Hampton Roads in 2018, bullish mine economics encouraged some US mining firms to increase output or even restart mines.

Viewpoint: Taiwan scrap headwinds persist in 2020
The price outlook for 2020 in Asia's benchmark containerised ferrous scrap market Taiwan is notably less optimistic than in global bulk market leader Turkey, reflecting the extent to which Asian and Atlantic scrap trends are increasingly diverging.

Viewpoint: Turkey outlook positive after tough 2019
There is widespread optimism in the Turkish ferrous market that 2020 will provide some relief after a difficult 2019, when the industry struggled in the aftermath of the lira crisis while simultaneously displaying impressive resilience in the face of multiple headwinds.

Viewpoint: US EAFs to grow market share in 2020
US integrated steelmakers are poised to lose more market share as electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmakers expand and build new flat-rolled mills, boosting demand for ferrous scrap and scrap alternatives.

Viewpoint: US ferrous exporters face 2020 challenges
US scrap exporters will focus on boosting ferrous volumes in 2020 to offset impacts from structural changes in the global nonferrous scrap market.

Viewpoint: US ferrous scrap poised for strong 1Q
The US domestic ferrous scrap market enters 2020 with upward momentum amid slower flows, limited inventories and steady underlying steel demand, but expectations of slower growth could mitigate longer-term momentum.

Viewpoint: US stainless enters 2020 under pressure
Consumer nickel discounts and the European ferro-chrome benchmark will likely weigh on authentic stainless steel scrap prices in early 2020.

Viewpoint: Volatile Turkey a concern for EU exporters
A more volatile Turkish ferrous scrap deep-sea import price throughout 2019 has made it very difficult for European exporters to keep a stable margin and it is set to remain a major challenge in 2020.


Nonferrous Scrap

Viewpoint: European aluminium alloys now a China story
One year ago, most European aluminium casting alloy producers had no relationships in China and had not once received a bid from a China-based buyer.

Viewpoint: European Al scrap availability in question
European aluminium scrap prices have risen through the final two months of this year, as Chinese demand for aluminium alloys boosted the market, but some alloy producers have warned that the market should be wary of the tightness of scrap metal supply going into 2020.


Base Metals

Viewpoint: Copper scrap export costs to China to rise
China's policy to restrict scrap metal imports has dramatically shifted the global market dynamic and the country's plan to overhaul copper and brass scrap standards is expected to lift export costs in 2020.

Viewpoint: Copper scrap spreads under pressure
US copper scrap spreads are expected to remain under pressure into 2020 amid continued lower demand from China because of restricted import licenses and quality inspections keeping US supply elevated.

Viewpoint: Global zinc supply set to surge in 2020
Global refined zinc supply is poised to surge in 2020, outstripping demand in the short-term as consumption falls behind.

Viewpoint: Primary aluminium faces grim 2020
The primary aluminium market will begin 2020 the same way that it began this year — with big questions over the health of the automotive industry as government regulations, political disputes, and more fundamental market developments conspire to cast dark clouds across the once-shining beacon of Europe's manufacturing industry.

Viewpoint: UBC spreads to shrink as mills buy more spot
US mill spot buying spreads for used beverage can (UBC) scrap metal could tighten in 2020 as consumers pare back annual contract consumption in favor of buying more in the spot market.

Viewpoint: US zorba poised to rise in early 2020
US consumer prices for zorba could climb further in the first quarter of 2020 as the export market is expected to remain strong and three months of consecutive ferrous scrap price increases have done little so far to improve shreddable flows.


Specialty Metals

Viewpoint: Legislation threatens Europe antimony trade
An EU initiative to overhaul chemical safety regulations could crush the supply chain for critical material antimony metal inside Europe, leaving consumers with few options and no spot market.

Viewpoint: Falling cobalt prices belie positive outlook
After a volatile year, cobalt prices ended 2019 on a downward trend, but the medium-to-long term outlook remains strong, with prices expected to recover.

Viewpoint: Less Brazilian alloy to lift US FeSi prices
US ferro-silicon prices are projected to rise by the end of the first quarter of 2020 as lower supplies of Brazilian origin alloy lift costs.

Viewpoint: Mn volatility underscores China dependence
Weak electrolytic manganese metal prices are expected to counter tightening supplies of medium-carbon ferro-manganese in 2020.

Viewpoint: Mn metal supply to pressure US FeMn prices
The world's dependence on China for manganese supply has been underscored in recent weeks with the outbreak of the coronavirus, highlighting risks attached to a shortage of diverse metals supply chains.

Viewpoint: US indium oversupply to persist
The US indium market is expected to remain oversupplied into 2020, with supply issues possibly worsening after the government auction of metal once held by the bankrupt Fanya exchange in China.

Viewpoint: V falls on higher availability
Chinese vanadium prices have fallen in 2019 from a year earlier on a rise in spot availability and lower demand from producers of reinforcement steel bar (rebar) amid a slowing economy.

Want to keep an eye on global metals prices and news throughout the year? Sign up for the free Argus Metals newsletter to learn more.

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