Commodities Roundup: Silver rises; aluminum prices recover; research team releases findings on cobalt-free batteries

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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:

Silver surges

MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns touched on silver’s recent price rise.

“Despite making some recovery, silver prices have risen some 20% since March. Silver is still estimated to have as far again to go, according to Goldman Sachs as quoted by Reuters,” Burns wrote.

“Over the past 20 years, silver prices have closely tracked an equally weighted basket of the continuous commodity index and gold prices, SeekingAlpha observes, by virtue of having a foot in both camps as both an industrial and monetary metal. The strong gains seen in gold over recent months and the bounce in the broad commodity complex have supported silver, but it still remains deeply undervalued on this basis.”

Aluminum price recovery

As Chinese demand recovers, metals prices on the SHFE have also made gains in recent weeks.

As MetalMiner's Maria Rosa Gobitz explained earlier this month, the SHFE aluminum price has surged past its previous 2020 high — reached Jan. 17 — to CNY 14,650 as of July 10.

“The SHFE prices recovered 30% over the last three months,” Gobitz wrote.

“Meanwhile, LME prices are recovering but not as quickly.

“In the past three months, the prices went up by 16% from its April low. Last Friday, the price reached $1,694/mt, which is still 8.45% below the 2020 peak of $1,835/mt (reached Jan. 6).”

UT at Austin releases study on cobalt-free batteries

As companies like Tesla strive to remove cobalt from their products — whether due to costs or ethical concerns associated with mining it — research teams have worked to find new battery solutions that do not require cobalt.

A team at the University of Texas at Austin recently released its findings on a cobalt-free, high-energy, lithium-ion battery in the journal Advanced Materials.

“Researchers from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin say they’ve cracked the code to a cobalt-free high-energy lithium-ion battery, eliminating the cobalt and opening the door to reducing the costs of producing batteries while boosting performance in some ways,” the UT News said in a release publicizing the research. “The team reported a new class of cathodes — the electrode in a battery where all the cobalt typically resides — anchored by high nickel content. The cathode in their study is 89% nickel. Manganese and aluminum make up the other key elements.”

U.S., Chinese steel prices diverge

As Gobitz explained in this month’s Raw Steels MMI report, SHFE and U.S. steel prices diverged last month.

“Chinese HRC prices continued to rise, reaching $559/mt (or CNY 3,910/mt) on July 10,” she explained. “Meanwhile, the U.S. HRC price has been falling over the past month and closed last week at $489/mt.

“In the case of CRC, the divergence is perhaps more significant. Chinese CRC prices have risen 5.56% over the one-month period to $599/mt (or CNY 4,190/mt), while its U.S. counterpart has fallen by 0.73% to $681/mt. HDG has followed a similar pattern.”

India inaugurates massive new solar park

India opened a 750 megawatt solar park earlier this month, MetalMiner’s Sohrab Darabshaw explained.

“The launch of the massive 750-megawatt power plant in the province of Madhya Pradesh came even as India announced it would stop solar equipment imports from China, one of the biggest exporters of solar power equipment, and Pakistan because of the border skirmish with China,” Darabshaw wrote.

“In 2015, when India announced its aim of installing 100 gigawatt of solar power capacity by 2022, the country only had about 3 gigawatts of existing installations.”

Surcharges, nickel prices increase

In the stainless steel sector, both surcharges and nickel prices showed upward momentum in May and June.

“U.S. stainless steel alloy surcharges rose for the second month in a row due to the increase in nickel prices,” Gobitz wrote.

“Over the past month, LME nickel prices have increased 7.9% to $13,567/mt by July 14. The Chinese nickel price has seen the same growth percentage, rising to $15,421/mt (or CNY 107,950/mt).”

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