By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief
For the most part, metal prices gained upward momentum during June and July. Concerns over government debt in the United States and Europe pushed gold and silver prices to new highs. Platinum group metals remained even during June and July, except for palladium, which moved $50/oz higher to $840/oz, an increase of 6%. Non-ferrous base metal prices also climbed 5% to 8%. Minor metal prices dropped while iron ore prices remained the same.
As this edition of E&MJ was going to press, U.S. politicians were vigorously debating plans for reducing the future national deficit and raising the current debt limit. Similarly, European leaders had proposed a Greek bailout for the Euro zone while a new financial crisis began to rear its head in Italy. The weakness in currency markets had a direct impact on gold and silver prices.
On Monday July 18, 2011, the contract for July delivery rose $12.30/oz, or 0.8%, to settle at $1,602.10/oz, piercing the $1,600/oz benchmark for the first time. By July 26, spot gold prices had climbed to $1,619.60/oz. Silver also rallied. Prices climbed above $40/oz. During April, silver reached a 31-year high of $50/oz, then it pulled back to the high $30/oz range.
Base metals are trending higher. On the E&MJ Price Index, lead, tin and zinc posted an 8% increase in prices. Copper and nickel prices were 6% and 5% higher respectively, while aluminum decreased 2%. Lead and zinc prices increased $200/mt and $175/mt, respectively. Tin prices climbed $2,140/mt. Nickel prices were up $1,170/mt during the period. Alumi-
num posted a $54/mt decrease.
September copper futures climbed to $4.48/lb. Spot copper prices have climbed steadily from $4.13/lb in early June to $4.37/lb toward the end of July. Copper prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) increased $522/metric ton (mt) during the last two months. Much of the gain could be attributed to labor unrest. Even though striking miners returned to work at the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, Chilean copper miners were threatening a strike at the Escondida mine.
Prices for minor metals decreased during June and July. Molybdenum and cobalt were down $3,800/mt (10%) and $2,500/mt (7%) respectively. Traders attributed soft moly prices to the summer slowdown in steel production, which created a surplus in supply. The situation may be further exacerbated by weak demand for stainless steel. Spot iron ore prices on the Platts iron ore index had not been impacted.