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According to recent research by the International Tin Association, tin could see increased use in lithium-ion batteries in the next decade.

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“ITA tracks global R&D, patents and markets for tin and has identified a strongly growing interest in tin in energy materials and technologies, including lithium-ion batteries,” the association said in a release. “Tin has a wide range of technical properties that mean its uses extend to many areas of everyday life. For the same reason, it can adapt well to meet emerging needs for new materials that can generate, store and deliver tomorrow’s energy.

Per the release, ITA has identified “nine technology opportunities for tin in lithium-ion batteries, mainly in high-capacity anode electrode materials, but also in solid-state and cathode materials.”

Lithium-ion batteries are used in a wide variety of applications, from pacemakers to cellphones.

“It is concluded that if tin does gain market share, lithium-ion batteries could grow to represent a significant new tin use in the 2025-2030 timescale,” the ITA says in its release.

The idea of turning to tin for use in lithium-ion batteries isn’t new.

A 2012 Forbes article cites research by the Washington State University, in which they tested anodes made of tin (as opposed to graphite).

“In particular, the researchers have developed an anode made of tin, rather than the carbon used currently,” a 2012 university release about the research stated. “Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are made up of two electrodes, the cathode and an anode. During charging, the lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode. The anode holds the lithium ions and stores the battery’s energy. When the battery is used, the ions move from the anode to the cathode, discharging electrons and creating an electric circuit.
“The new tin anode has the potential to store almost three times the energy of graphite.”

According to the United States Geological Survey, in 2017 China led the way in tin production, producing 100,000 tons, followed by Indonesia and Myanmar (50,000 tons apiece).

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For more information on the ITA research, visit the ITA website.

Tin Price Trends

As for price, LME tin rode a downtrend from April 2018 through the end of November, before gradually picking up over the next 2 1/2 months.

LME tin price since the beginning of 2018. Source: LME

The LME tin price hit $18,850 as of Dec. 3, 2018, and has increased 11.9% to $21,100 as of Feb. 19. As we noted in our most recent Monthly Metals Outlook report, a nearly 51% decline in LME stocks since December has helped drive the price uptrend.

Tin Production

According to another ITA release, a Tasmanian tin mine posted record production in January.

The Renison mine, a joint venture of Metals X and Yunnan Tin Group, produced 871 tons of tin in January.

“Australian mining appears to be ramping up, with increased tin output from Renison coinciding with new production at the Granville mine,” the ITA said. “Despite bush fires threatening production in January and forcing the mine to suspend operations for two days, Renison still achieved record output. This bears well for the future of the mine, which is due to report its updated resource estimate in the June quarter.”

Nataliya Hora/Adobe Stock

Britain has been in paroxysms of concern over the fate of its car industry.

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In January, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), announced it will lay off 4,500 employees as part of a plan to save £2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) in the face of a collapse in the sale of diesel cars (some 90% of JLR’s cars were diesel last year).

Nissan, the largest of the Japanese car builders in the U.K., announced it would not be building its new X Trail model in the U.K., contrary to earlier promises made to secure millions in public support. Honda announced it was planning to cut 800 jobs at its Swindon plant this year.

Then, according to the Economist last week, Ford unveiled the European end of a global effort to cut costs by $14 billion a year, which may see 24,000 of its 200,000 workers laid off.

Such is the political fever in the U.K. at present, and the fault is being laid firmly at the door of Britain’s departure from the European Union (that is, Brexit).

In reality, while the uncertainty created by the U.K. government’s bungled exit negotiations have not helped, all these decisions reflect a wider downturn in the global automotive market.

Back to the Economist piece, citing automakers blaming falling sales and the need to merge operations or share platforms – such as Volkswagen and Ford’s recent tie-up for vans and pick-ups – to counter the threat from automotive electrification.

Yet many of the factors cited, while certainly constituting threats in the medium term – the move to car sharing or ride-hailing services could certainly decimate sales of personally owned cars in the medium term — are still in their infancy in terms of overall numbers and haven’t begun to impact total car demand yet.

Nor has the electric vehicle (EV), said by some to be the death knell of traditional manufacturers of internal combustion powered vehicles, as the likes of Google, Tesla and even rising Chinese EV manufacturers take over.

Source: The Economist

The drop in sales both in Europe, the U.S. and, most importantly, China is real enough — but the reason is much simpler than a change in consumers’ buying preferences.

GDP is slowing, most markedly where the fastest decline in sales has been: China. Consumers are worried by trade wars, slowing growth, fears over the stock market and even talk of recessions.

Rising sales come on the back of confidence and rising living standards; when consumers fear for their economic future, they stop or postpone buying.

That is what is happening in China and we are seeing beginning to happen in Europe, South America and probably later this year in the U.S.

According to The Economist, China, the world’s largest car market, shrank for the first time in over 20 years in 2018. Sales fell by 2.8% to 28.1 million vehicles and slid by 13% in December alone, giving a taste of what may be in store this year.

The U.S. market could be due for a severe shakeup if President Donald Trump’s threat to slap import tariffs on foreign cars comes into effect.

UBS Bank reckons that the worst case — tariffs of 25% — would see the American market shrink by 12% next year.

Further out, there are certainly challenges.

The consulting firm Bain & Company, is quoted by the paper as saying that America’s driving-age population is not growing (a trend mirrored in the rest of the world, the paper says). The firm reckons that the American market, currently at 17 million cars a year, could shrink to 10 million by 2025.

But for now, automakers are struggling to cope with a market that was growing strongly but has now taken a turn for the worse. China was for many Western brands their most profitable market. Not only have overall passenger car sales fallen, but Western automakers have been most heavily hit as the Chinese have reacted to the trade standoff by shunning foreign makes.

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Car sales are not going to rise until confidence and growth picks up — when that may be remains to be seen, but for this year more of the same seems the most likely.