CHINA STEEL SCRAP: Strong domestic Japanese market makes deals difficult

Robust demand for steel scrap in the Japanese domestic market is supporting Japanese export prices, creating a wide bid-offer gap and making it very tough for Chinese buyers to clinch any deals, sources told Fastmarkets.

Export activity from Japan has been scarce this week, with domestic steelmakers in Japan and a handful of buyers in South Korea continuing to pay higher prices for the material, according to sources.

Offers for HRS101-grade steel scrap were heard at ¥63,000 ($569) per tonne fob Japan on Friday, sources said.

The offers were much higher than Chinese buyers’ ideas of workable prices. Key market participants estimated that acceptable prices for buyers in China would be $530-540 per tonne cfr northern China and $520-530 per tonne cfr eastern China.

That compares with prices of around $535 per tonne fob paid by a Korean buyer for HS this week, which with freight costs added, would come to around $570-580 per tonne cfr China.

“There were one or two aggressive buyers who gave a bid $550 per tonne cfr northern China, but this cannot represent the current market level in China. Even so, it was still not comparable with the prices Japanese sellers are offering,” a Japanese exporter told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets’ daily price assessment for steel scrap, heavy recycled steel materials, cfr China, which takes into account prices at ports in eastern China, was $520-530 per tonne on Friday, unchanged day on day.

Some Chinese mills reduced their purchase prices for domestic scrap this week. This has also weighed on their expectations for import scrap prices.

“Downstream demand was weakened by a seasonal lull - mill margins are therefore squeezed. Some of the mills running electric-arc furnaces (EAFs) were on the edge of losing money,” a Chinese scrap industry analyst said.

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