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Challenging Times

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These are challenging times for steel and metal markets, causing many businesses in their supply chains to reassess their strategies at both the input and output ends of their operations to find the best solutions and exploit unexpected opportunities.
Take scrap, for example – a major theme of this month’s issue of Metal Market Magazine. While President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium product imports to the United States caused consternation among exporters to US markets, the market protection those have afforded the nation’s own steelmakers has pushed up prices for steel and, to some degree, the scrap needed to feed their EAFs.

But some scrap suppliers in the US market wonder about a sufficient flow of material later in the year, as US steel production climbs, while others worry about potential reprisals from other steelmaking and steel exporting nations that traditionally purchase US ferrous scrap. We look at trends in both US ferrous and non-ferrous scrap markets in this issue, together with the US Section 232 decision repercussions on ferrous prices elsewhere.
 
A spotlight on the latest scrap equipment provides several examples of the innovative technology recently developed to deal with the increasing complexity and volume of materials handled, as well as demands for greater purity from those buying the scrap industry’s products – not least as a consequence of China’s National Sword initiative.

Technology of a different kind has been stimulating prospects for the nickel market – rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles. If future developments meet medium- to long-term expectations, the growth in demand for nickel to produce them, alongside steady growth in demand for stainless steel – the still-dominant market for nickel – should, in combination with forecasted supply constraints, buoy nickel prices.

Large primary nickel producers are positioning themselves for future demand growth. Our extensive cover profile interview with Gareth Penny, chairman of the major Russian nickel and precious metals producer Norilsk Nickel, includes interesting insights into that company’s strategic plans.

Another market spotlight, on tin, identifies the reasons behind its recent price fluctuations and its outlook, while an end-user spotlight on aerospace examines the competition between lightweight materials – including aluminium, titanium and composites – for this important international market for metals.

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