Ulbrich Economic Update - Number 48 (May 2024)

View the Economic Update May 2024 Issue

Click here to download the 16 page Economic Update for the full details of recent economic trends impacting the steel and commodities markets, as well as the associated industries across the globe. Continue reading below for the Executive Summary.


The Americas

THE U.S. ECONOMY GREW AT ITS SLOWEST PACE IN NEARLY TWO YEARS in the 1st Qtr as a jump in imports to meet still-strong consumer spending widened the trade deficit. An acceleration in inflation reinforced expectations that the Fed would not cut interest rates before September. Other April data included: Payrolls gained 175,000 jobs. The 3.9% annual change in average hourly earnings was the smallest since May of 2021. The jobless rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.9%. U.S. manufacturing contracted amid a decline in orders, while a measure of prices paid by factories for inputs approached a two-year high.

March data showed: Factory orders increased 1.6%, boosted by demand for commercial aircraft (+30.6%) and motor vehicle bodies, parts and trailers (+1.1%), but gains elsewhere were moderate. Industrial output gained 0.4%, as factory production climbed 0.5%. Mining output fell 1.4% and utilities rose 2.0%. Durable goods orders increased 2.6%. Excluding a 7.7% jump in transportation goods, new orders were up only 0.2%. U.S. producer prices rose 0.2% as a rise in the cost of services was softened by a fall in goods prices, calming fears of a resurgence in inflation. The leading economic indicators declined by 0.3%, a larger drop than expected. Consumer prices rose 0.4%, matching February’s increase. Retail sales surged to a 4% annual growth and highlighted the resilience of consumers despite increasing inflationary pressures. Personal spending increased by a solid 0.8%. Personal income was up 0.5%, lifted by a 0.7% gain in wages and salaries. Existing home sales dropped 4.3%, single-family housing starts tumbled and permits for future construction dropped to a five-month low.

Euro sign flags


EUROZONE GDP EXPANDED AT A RATE OF 0.3% IN THE FIRST QUARTER, an improvement from a contraction of 0.1% in the final quarter of last year. Germany’s economy grew at a rate of 0.2%, a marked rebound from a 0.5% contraction in the previous quarter. China’s economy grew 5.3% in the 1st Qtr YOY, driven in large part by Beijing’s push to turbocharge manufacturing. Industrial production increased 6.1% in the quarter, while industrial producer prices fell 2.7% amid deflationary pressures.

Steel Industry Updates

NIPPON STEEL POSTPONED THE CLOSING OF ITS $14.1BN TAKEOVER OF U.S. STEEL BY THREE MONTHS after the U.S. Department of Justice requested more documentation related to the deal. Nippon said the deal, already approved by U.S. Steel’s shareholders, is still expected to go through. German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp said Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský would take a 20% stake in its steel business and talks continue about Křetínský’s Corporate Group taking a further 30%, forming a joint venture.

Scientist with metal

Aerospace Developments

A METAL ALLOY COMPOSED OF NIOBIUM, TANTALUM, TITANIUM AND HAFNIUM has shocked materials scientists with its impressive strength and toughness at both extremely hot and cold temperatures. The alloy is from a new class of metals known as refractory high or medium entropy alloys (RHEAs/RMEAs). The metal has the potential to build the aerospace engines of the future. Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is gearing up for its first crewed launch, transporting NASA astronauts to the ISS.

Automotive Trends

VW EMPLOYEES AT A TENNESSEE FACTORY VOTED TO JOIN THE UAW, a landmark victory for union organizing. Sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in Europe dropped 11.3% YOY in March, the second decline in four months. Globally, BEV sales growth has also slowed. Tesla is cutting 10% of its global workforce and Mercedes-Benz has pushed back its electrification target.

US and Japan Partnership

Energy Sector News

THE U.S. AND JAPAN HAVE PARTNERED TO ACCELERATE DEVELOPMENT OF NUCLEAR FUSION. The partnership will focus on the challenges of delivering commercial fusion and expand work between U.S. and Japanese universities, national laboratories and private companies. Indonesia’s sovereign wealth fund plans to invest up to $1bn this year with green energy as one of its priorities as the Southeast Asian country aims to become a hub for energy transition on the back of its vast nickel reserves.

Medical Insights

BOSTON SCIENTIFIC GAVE A FIRST LOOK AT ITS FARAPULSE’S U.S. LAUNCH since the pulsed field ablation (PFA) system was approved by the FDA in February. PFA is gaining momentum as a new treatment for atrial fibrillation. The catheter-based technology uses non-thermal electrical pulses to target cardiac tissue. Senseonics received an integrated continuous glucose monitoring (iCGM) designation from the FDA, allowing it to integrate its implantable CGM with pumps as part of automated insulin delivery systems.

Mining iron ore

Metals & Commodities

VALE, THE BRAZILIAN MINING GIANT, PRODUCED MORE IRON ORE THAN EXPECTED in its 1st Qtr on better operational performance at its biggest mine. Iron ore sales saw a 15% increase on an annual basis, though sales lagged production due to supply chain issues. Iron ore prices have declined since the start of the year, briefly sinking below $100/tonne in mid-March due to higher port stockpiles, squeezed steel mill margins and a slow restart of construction activity in China. The metal has rebounded lately with some banks upgrading outlooks for Chinese growth following better-than-expected economic data on exports and factory activity.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay up to date on the latest state of the markets and ecosystems fueled by stainless steel and other key manufacturing materials by subscribing to get the Ulbrich Economic Update delivered to your inbox monthly.

All articles

Related Posts