Rather than dwell on just how horrible the markets have been since I last wrote you, I thought I’d have a quick look back over 2014 and see what might be noted for going forward into 2015.
The Russia/Ukraine situation still remains very fluid, with Russia looking like heading into full-blown recession and Ukraine in desperate need of being propped up financially. And who knows if there may not be more sanctions. If so, then potential concerns about the supply of not only of potash and refractory magnesia, but also cobalt, nickel, niobium, titanium, tungsten and vanadium may become real.
Thinking about tungsten brings to mind China. Back on August 7th, the country lost its appeal to the WTO against an earlier adverse decision over export quotas on rare earths, tungsten and moly. However, by the end of the year, whilst quotas for moly and tungsten had been lifted, it took a little longer for the same to occur for rare earths. However, it appears, export taxes on all of them look set to continue, at least for the time being, and so supplies to the rest of the world will continue to be restricted.
So, the price of oil has fallen 46% over the course of the year, the slide starting midsummer and accelerating from September on. What sort of effect is this going to have on the market for alternative energy solutions, in particular solar and wind, and the likes of neodymium, selenium, gallium, cadmium and tellurium? Have either, or both, solutions reached critical mass?
The latest release (on December 9th) from the U.S. national solar trade body, the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA), may show “[t]he U.S. installed 1,354 megawatts MW of solar photovoltaics PV in the third quarter of 2014, to total 16.1 gigawatts (GW) installed PV capacity, with another 1.4 GW of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity, enough to power 3.5 million homes.” And that the quarter was “the second largest quarter in history for solar growth“, with both the SEIA and GTM Research predicting “another record-breaking year for 2014, with total installed capacity reaching three times the size of the market just three years ago.” But one wonders, following the fourth quarter’s oil price woes, just whether these predictions will actually come true.
Finally, if you are still thinking of gifts for clients, or need an excellent reference book, and primer for newcomers to the business, then you need look no further than the British Geological Survey’s excellent Critical Metals Handbook, published by Wiley earlier this year and with a fine chapter therein on rhenium by MMTA member Anthony Lipmann. (No, no contributor receives any royalties!)
I remain, from a chilly New York, with, once again, best wishes for a very happy and successful 2015 to MMTA members everywhere.
Tom Butcher, December 31st, 2014 Hard Assets Investor ©2014 Tom Butcher