Commodities Roundup: U.S. Steel layoffs; Fiat Chrysler-Peugeot mega merger; Copper production drops; Europe’s auto sector

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For the buyers and category managers out there, especially those of you deep in the weeds of buying and managing commodities, here’s a quick rundown of news and thoughts from particular commodity markets.

MetalMiner, a sister site of ours, scours the landscape for what matters. This week:

U.S. Steel announces over 1,500 layoffs

U.S. Steel recently announced over 1,500 layoffs at its Great Lakes Works plant in Ecorse, Michigan.

“We understand the impact today’s announcement to indefinitely idle Great Lakes Works has on many of our stakeholders, and we are acting now to reposition U.S. Steel around a footprint differentiated based on cost or capability,” President and CEO David B. Burritt said in the firm’s earnings release.

The steelmaker said its expected fourth-quarter adjusted EBITDA comes in at a loss of $25 million.

U.S. housing starts surge in November

November was an active month for the U.S. housing market, as housing starts jumped 13.6% on a year-over-year basis.

November housing starts were also up 3.2% compared with the previous month.

Fiat Chrysler, Peugeot to form 4th-largest automaker

Automakers Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot have merged to form what is the fourth-largest automaker in the world.

The merger comes after earlier talks between Fiat Chrysler and Renault fell apart.

“Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot agreed this week to a 50-50 merger to create the world’s fourth-biggest carmaker with revenues of €170 billion and a combined workforce of about 400,000,” MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns wrote. “The intention to invest in new technologies, such as electric vehicles (EVs), at a time of profound and challenging change in the automotive industry.

“The Financial Times reports the merger of Peugeot and Fiat will form a group with recurring operating profits of more than €11 billion and sales ahead of General Motors and Hyundai-Kia.”

Copper mine production drops

Copper mine production through the first nine months of the year dropped 0.4% year over year, according to a recent report from the International Copper Study Group (ICSG).

Refined copper metal production was about flat during the period.

Meanwhile, copper prices have recently showed some strength after struggling throughout much of the year; the average LME cash copper price came in November increased 2% compared with the previous month.

European auto industry facing challenges

Circling back to the automotive sector, MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns weighed in on the European sector and some of the challenges it faces in the coming years.

“Relatively higher prices and range anxiety, exacerbated by inadequate charging infrastructure and long charging times, are putting off buyers despite boosters suggesting the EV market is on the cusp of take-off,” Burns wrote.

“European carmakers are already reining back sales of luxury gas guzzlers like Mercedes AMG range in order to help meet the new targets, but those are by far the most profitable part of their range — putting overall company profitability under pressure.”

Lead, zinc in deficit

According to the most recent International Lead and Zinc Study Group report, lead and zinc were both in deficit through the first 10 months of the year.

Lead demand exceeded supply by 81,000 tons, while the zinc deficit reached 152,000 tons.

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