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Week in Review: Aluminum industry going greener; rare earths chess game; nickel, stainless dynamics

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including the aluminum industry and its efforts to curb…

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including the aluminum industry and its efforts to curb emissions, China’s latest foray in the global rare earths chess game and much more:

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Week of Feb. 15-19 (aluminum industry, rare earths and more)

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Automotive

This Morning in Metals: February US auto sales forecast to rise 3.3%

This morning in metals news: J.D. Power and LMC Automotive released their joint forecast on February US auto sales; meanwhile, US steel imports fell by 23% in January; and, lastly, Ford’s CEO…

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This morning in metals news: J.D. Power and LMC Automotive released their joint forecast on February US auto sales; meanwhile, US steel imports fell by 23% in January; and, lastly, Ford’s CEO urged the US government to support the implementation of electric vehicle applications.

February US auto sales forecast to rise

New-vehicle retail sales in February are forecast to rise by 3.3% when adjusted for selling days, LMC Automotive and J.D. Power said.

“Despite challenges posed by inclement weather in most of the country, retail sales demand continues to be strong with the industry posting a second consecutive month of year-over-year gains,” said Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division at J.D. Power.

Meanwhile, the average manufacturer incentive is down. According to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, the average incentive is on pace to be $3,562 per vehicle, or down $614 from a year ago.

Furthermore, as incentives decline, average transaction prices are going up. Per the report, the forecast calls for the average transaction price to rise 9.8% to $37,524, a February record.

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Steel imports drop 23%

US steel imports dropped 23% in January on a year-over-year basis, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported.

January imports totaled 2.42 million net tons. However, January imports jumped 62.2% from the previous month.

In addition, steel import market share reached an estimated 15% in January, the AISI added.

Ford CEO urges government to step in on EVs

Ford CEO Jim Farley on Wednesday urged the US government to step in and promote battery production and EV charging infrastructure, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at securing several critical supply chains. Among the critical products targeted are semiconductors, which have automotive applications.

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Japan’s Kosei taps Rusal for new aluminum supply deal

One of the world’s leading producers of low-carbon aluminum, UC Rusal, announced a new collaboration with Japanese automotive component manufacturer Kosei, signifying yet another step in its over…

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One of the world’s leading producers of low-carbon aluminum, UC Rusal, announced a new collaboration with Japanese automotive component manufacturer Kosei, signifying yet another step in its over 30-year journey.

Last week, the Russian aluminum giant Rusal said Kosei had selected it to be its global supplier of high-quality aluminum alloys.

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Rusal-Kosei aluminum supply deal

Kosei, set up in 1950, designs and manufactures vehicle wheels and autoparts. The firm operates from seven countries.

In the last 30 years, Rusal has proved to be a key partner of Kosei. Rusal has supplied the Japanese company with primary foundry aluminum alloys. Kosei uses in the material in factories in to India, Japan, Thailand, and the US.

As part of the new deal, Rusal will be selling its proprietary low-carbon aluminum “ALLOW” to Kosei. ALLOW is a low emitting aluminum, pushing out about 2.4 metric tons of CO2 per metric ton of metal smelted. Meanwhile, that compares to the industry standard of about 12 metric tons of CO2 per metric ton of aluminum.

In fact, just last year, Rusal joined the Japan Climate Leaders’ Partnership (JCLP), a coalition of businesses seeking to advance the goals of decarbonization and sustainable business.

JCLP has 163 member companies, contributing to its stipulated aim of a carbon-free future.

End uses

The “green” metal ALLOW is used to produce wheels and other auto components for global brands like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Suzuki, to name a few.

Kosei President Shunkichi Kamiya, in a press release announcing the aluminum supply deal between the two companies, pointed out the two companies have a long-running supply relationship. He added he hoped the partnership with Rusal would continue for many years in the future.

Bullish future

Rusal has been quite bullish on the future of aluminum during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It recently said demand for the metal is on a path of recovery, despite the pandemic.

Rusal recently announced its intent to acquire the business and assets of the Aluminium Rheinfelden GmbH, bring it out of insolvency. With the move, Rusal indicated aims to complement its global scale, low-carbon aluminum production with Aluminium Rheinfelden’s niche product focus. Aluminium Rheinfelden manufactures aluminum alloys, semis and carbon-based components. Furthermore, the German firm is a major supplier to the global automotive industry.

In addition, the German firm also owns over 70 patents in the automotive sector. As such, the acquisition by Rusal will help reinforce its position as a major global provider of automotive aluminum.

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This Morning in Metals: US industrial production up 0.9% in January

This morning in metals news: US industrial production picked up in January; global aluminum output also rose in January; and, lastly, General Motors reported a milestone in the construction of a new…

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This morning in metals news: US industrial production picked up in January; global aluminum output also rose in January; and, lastly, General Motors reported a milestone in the construction of a new battery cell manufacturing plant in northeast Ohio.

US industrial production rises

US industrial production rose by 0.9% in January, the Federal Reserve reported.

Furthermore, manufacturing output rose by 1.0%. Meanwhile, mining output picked up by 2.3%.

Industrial sector capacity utilization reached 75.6%, up by 0.7 percentage point. The rate, however, is down 4.0% from the long-run average from 1972-2020.

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Aluminum output picks up

Global aluminum production totaled 5.71 million tons in January, the International Aluminum Institute reported this week.

Furthermore, the total marked an increase from 5.47 million tons in January 2020.

Meanwhile, China’s output reached an estimated 3.3 million tons, up from 3.09 million tons in January 2020.

Elsewhere, production in Western Europe reached 285,000 tons, up from 284,000 tons. In addition, Eastern and Central European production fell by 3,000 tons to 353,000 tons.

After trending sideways to down in January, the aluminum price has picked back up this month, as the LME three-month aluminum price closed Monday at $2,161 per metric ton, or up 9.39% from a month ago.

General Motors hails battery cell plant milestone

Ultium Cells LLC is a joint venture of General Motors and South Korea’s LG Chem.

The joint venture will produce Ultium battery cells at a new 2.8-million-square-foot facility in Lordstown, Ohio. General Motors reported ironworkers at the construction site installed the final beam at the site.

“Ultium Cells, a joint venture between General Motors and LG Chem, will mass-produce Ultium battery cells at the facility to advance the push for a zero-emissions, all-electric future,” GM said Feb. 19. “GM and LG Chem are investing $2.3 billion in the facility to support EV manufacturing in the U.S., and in turn, local jobs, education, career training and infrastructure.”

In addition, GM said the plant is slated for completion in 2022.

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