U.S. probing titanium sponge imports from Japan, Kazakhstan

Date Sep 18 2017 16:24:46 Source:Thomson Reuters

WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department is investigating whether titanium sponge imports from Japan and Kazakhstan are being unfairly dumped in the United States and whether Kazakh producers are receiving unfair subsidies, the department said on Friday.

    The anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty probes were being initiated following petitions from U.S.-based Titanium Metals Corp, part of Berkshire Hathaway Inc's  BRKa.N  Precision Castparts Corp, the department said in a statement.

    The investigations come amid a larger effort by the Trump administration aimed at helping U.S. companies better compete with imports, including Chinese steel.

    Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is scheduled to with Trump at the White House on Friday morning, said in the statement his department would make its decision "at the earliest opportunity."

    According to the Commerce Department, 2016 imports of titanium sponge from Japan and Kazakhstan were estimated at $144.8 million and $374,000, respectively.

    Titanium sponge is a porous form of titanium resulting from the first stage of processing the metal for use in the aerospace, electronic, architectural and sports equipment industries. 

Edited by SHMET

Albemarle asks Chile to raise lithium production limit

Date Sep 18 2017 16:24:29 Source:Thomson Reuters

SANTIAGO, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Albemarle Corp  ALB.N  has asked Chile to increase the U.S. miner's lithium production limit in the country, it said on Friday, amid high global prices for the mineral used in batteries as demand for electric vehicles surges.

    The company asked state development agency CORFO to raise its lithium production quota to 125,000 tonnes annually from the current 80,000-tonne-per-year limit. 

    It said new technology would allow it to obtain more of the mineral without needing to extract more brine out of the Atacama salt flat.

    "With the understanding that this new technology is commercially viable, Albemarle will build a new lithium carbonate production plant at the beginning of the next decade," the company said in a statement. 

    The expansion plan would be rolled out once current projects are completed and operating at full capacity, the company added.

    If the plan is approved, Albemarle's investment in Chile would reach $1 billion over the next five years. 

    The Atacama salt flat is part of the so-called "lithium triangle" in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, which contains a large portion of the world's lithium reserves. 

Edited by SHMET

Russia's Norilsk boosts China team ahead of launch of big copper mine

Date Sep 18 2017 16:24:05 Source:Thomson Reuters

BEIJING, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Russia's Norilsk Nickel GMKN.MM  has boosted its trading team in China as it prepares to start up a copper, iron and gold mine in the far east of Russia, the world's second-largest nickel producer told Reuters.

    Moscow-based Nornickel in August hired Li Chunlan to market copper concentrate and Zhao Xin to market iron ore from the Bystrinsky mine. Li's role will also involve finding customers for nickel concentrate, people familiar with the appointment said.    

    The Bystrinksy project, just 90 kilometres (56 miles) from the Chinese border in Russia's Chita region, is scheduled to start up in the fourth quarter of this year.

    "We have reinforced our (China) sales and logistics teams appropriately to be able to handle all commercial aspects of the new product flows effectively," Markus Meurer, Nornickel's head of global sales and marketing, said by email.

    The launch of the mine comes amid long-term concerns about global supply of some base metals, with the world's largest and oldest mines in Chile and elsewhere gradually becoming depleted.

    It also comes as copper prices  CMCU3  remain elevated by concerns about capacity cuts in China, the world's top consumer, even as demand growth slows.

    The strengthening of the team marks an effort by Nornickel, which already markets refined nickel from within China, the world's biggest copper and iron ore consumer, to be closer to key customers for other metals.

    Previously, the company sold nickel concentrate in China through its European office and did not have any copper concentrate sales presence in the country, a Nornickel source said.

    The company also has offices in Beijing and Hong Kong.

    Bystrinsky, in which the Chinese-owned Highland Fund has a 13.33-percent stake, contains up to 343 million tonnes of ore reserves, Nornickel said in its first-half earnings presentation on Aug. 15. 

    The company describes the mine as one of the 10 largest developed copper deposits in the world. Bystrinsky also contains gold, silver and iron ore.

    "We expect it to become a new focus of growth for Nornickel, against the backdrop of an optimistic outlook for the copper market and in particular for Chinese demand for high-quality copper concentrates," Meurer said.

    China imported 1.44 million tonnes of copper concentrate in August, down fractionally from 1.45 million tonnes a year earlier, according to customs data released last week. 

Edited by SHMET

Speculators increase bullish COMEX gold stance for 9th week

Date Sep 18 2017 16:23:43 Source:Thomson Reuters

NEW YORK, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Hedge funds and money managers raised their net long position in COMEX gold contracts for the ninth straight week, in the week to Sept. 12, and also increased it in silver, U.S. government data showed on Friday.

    The speculators reduced their net long position in copper futures and options, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed. 

Edited by SHMET

Gold weighed down by prospects of ECB, Fed tightening

Date Sep 18 2017 16:23:04 Source:Thomson Reuters

NEW YORK/LONDON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Gold prices fell on Friday after a European Central Bank (ECB) official called for scaling back the bank's stimulus program, although losses were capped when weaker-than-expected U.S. economic data raised questions about further interest rate hikes. 

    ECB board member Sabine Lautenschlaeger made the most explicit call so far from an ECB policymaker for paring the bank's 2.3 trillion euros money-printing program.

    "For gold this is bad news because this continues the trend of the market pricing in the normalization of monetary policy," said Jens Pedersen, senior analyst at Danske Bank in Copenhagen.

    But he said there had already been plenty of headlines about the ECB planning an exit from its bond buying and the U.S. Federal Reserve reducing its balance sheet after its big quantitative easing program.

    Spot gold  XAU=  was down 0.6 percent at $1,321.88 an ounce by 1:47 p.m. EDT (1747 GMT). It was down 1.8 percent for the week, on track for its biggest weekly decline since early July.

    U.S. gold futures  GCcv1  for December delivery settled down 0.3 percent at $1,325.20.

    Those "normalization" actions by central banks tend to pressure gold. 

    Gold briefly pared losses on news that U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in August and industrial output dropped for the first time since January, in contrast to Thursday's strong U.S. inflation data.

    Gold largely shrugged off North Korea's firing of another missile over Hokkaido, Japan. 

    "Markets are paying much more attention to global economic data," said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Seattle.

    "The synchronized global growth story is gaining momentum and the uptick in inflation seems to mean that the Fed has plans to make their planned moves."

    The Fed's two-day monetary policy meeting begins on Sept. 19.

    Commerzbank said August gold imports into India, the world's second biggest gold consumer, were the lowest so far this year.

    In other precious metals, platinum's discount to gold fell to around $360, the lowest according to Reuters data dating back to 1985.

    Platinum  XPT=  dropped 1 percent to $969 an ounce after touching $959.95, the lowest since Aug. 16. This is also around where the 50-day moving average crossed above the 200-day moving average. The metal was down 3.7 percent for the week, on track for its biggest weekly drop since March.

    Silver  XAG=  fell 0.8 percent to $17.61 and was set to mark its first weekly decline in four.

    Palladium  XPD=  rose 0.2 percent to $924.10 and was heading for a second weekly decline. 

Edited by SHMET