United States Metals Report Q1 2014
Our overall tepid forecast for the refined metals sector in the US is based on a steady but less than robust economic recovery, and the continued long-term trend of declining consumption and metal intensity per unit of economic growth. In the short term, we expect that refiners and metal producers will continue bringing production back online as the country's economic outlook improves, particularly in the construction and automotive sectors. However, production and consumption will probably remain below pre-crisis levels for some time.
We believe that slow but steady growth in the metals sector will roughly track broader GDP growth, which we forecast to average 2.6% from 2014 to 2017. Gains in the manufacturing sector, including the automotive and construction sectors, should lead to steady, albeit low, growth. However, elevated inventories, weak foreign demand, and increased competition from cheap imports will cap production increases. Data continues to indicate that while metal industry activity has increased since the end of 2012, industry growth has slowed.
The US metals sector does rely somewhat on imports of some mineral inputs such as bauxite and tin. We forecast little change in the nature of US metals trade, but recognise that sharp changes to metals prices could affect this dynamic. We expect that the bulk of metals sector production will be supplied by domestic mineral resources to support US industries rather than for export abroad. We also note that domestic US companies will dominate production of their respective metals, although laws on foreign ownership of US based companies enables some foreign companies to operate as well, with various foreign steel firms maintaining US operations.