By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief

As the world says good riddance to 2020, it’s worth noting that metal prices were looking like they would finish the year on a high note. With the exception of gold and cobalt, which were down 2.2% and 1.6%, respectively, all of the other metals tracked in the E&MJ Price Index increased during November. Gold has declined from its August highs of more than $2,000 per ounce (oz) to $1,838.10/oz on December 4, but the yellow metal started the year at $1,538.50/oz.

Of the precious metals, platinum made the largest gain in November, climbing more than 25% to $1,075/oz. Platinum has not sold above $1,000 for a while. Palladium prices are steadily heading back toward the heady March highs of $2,500/oz. Increased demand and the converter repair issues with Amplats in South Africa are having a pronounced impact on prices for platinum group metals.

Prices for base metals were also higher across the board. Copper, lead and aluminum were up 15.8%, 13.6% and 10.8%, respectively, on a month-to-month basis. Copper prices are up $0.72/lb for the
year and most of that increase (nearly $0.50/lb) came during November. Lead basically recovered ground it had lost throughout the year, while aluminum is up 13.6% for the year or $0.11/lb. The year-to-date comparison also shows that zinc, nickel and tin are up 19%, 13.8% and 11%, respectively. As far as commodity markets are concerned, these metals, especially copper, are considered leading indicators and these prices are indicating a global recovery.

Iron ore prices were also on the move during November. When Vale lowered its guidance for 2020, spot prices for iron ore moved higher immediately. During November, iron ore prices climbed more than $21 per dry metric ton (dmt) to $141.53/dmt. Iron ore started the year at $93.17/dmt and has increased by nearly $50/dmt (51.9%). While some will say that these prices are unsustainable, Port Hedland, Western Australia’s iron ore export hub, was preparing for a hurricane as this edition was going to press.