Chinese billet imports cushion SE Asian prices despite Philippine lockdown
Opportunistic Chinese billet importers seeking to profit from an open arbitrage window are likely to cushion the blow to Southeast Asian prices caused by extensive measures imposed in the Philippines to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), sources told Fastmarkets.
The Philippine government announced late on Thursday that its capital, Manila, would be placed under lockdown from midnight on March 15 to April 14 as part of preventive measures to arrest the virus.
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte declared, among other measures, a month-long closure of schools, prohibition of mass gatherings, and restrictions on all forms of transport into or out of the densely populated metropolis of more than 12 million people.
The announcement preceded the Philippine currency’s depreciation on Friday to 51.10 pesos per $1, compared with 50.54 pesos to $1 a day earlier.
A weaker peso will result in more expensive import transactions, which are typically concluded in US dollars.
The Philippines has recorded 52 infections and 2 deaths from the coronavirus, according to data from the country’s Department of Health.
Fastmarkets’ daily price assessment for steel billet, import, cfr Southeast Asia, which mainly looks at 120-150mm 5sp grade billet sold into Manila, was $400-410 per tonne on March 13, down by as much as $12 from $412-415 per tonne the previous day. A week ago, the price was at $415-418 per tonne.
During the week, an Indonesian steelmaker sold 20,000 tonnes of April-shipment 150mm billet to the Philippines at $395 per tonne fob, or equivalent to about $415 per tonne cfr Manila.
Market participants said the transaction involved billet with a higher manganese content which typically commands a $3-5-per-tonne premium above the 5sp grade assessed by Fastmarkets.
Offers for Russian billet shipped from ports in the country’s Far East were at $412-420 per tonne at the end of the week, down from $420-425 per tonne cfr Manila at the start of the week.
Suppliers of South Korean and Japanese billet were asking for $415-420 per tonne cfr Manila, while Malaysian billet was available at $420 per tonne cfr Manila.
Offers for billet produced in Vietnam using blast furnaces (BF) stood at $415-420 per tonne cfr Manila by the end of the week, widening downward by $5 from $420 per tonne cfr Manila in the first half of the week.
Billet produced in Vietnam using induction furnaces (IF) was available at $400-405 per tonne cfr Manila on Friday, down by $5 from $405-410 per tonne cfr Manila earlier in the week. Fastmarkets does not assess prices for IF billet because they tend to be lower than mainstream levels due to the product’s inferior quality.
“Trading activity has slowed down and it is likely that there will be logistical disruptions eventually,” a trader in the Philippines said.
Buyers indicated their interest at $390-400 per tonne cfr Manila, while market participants estimated that $405-410 per tonne cfr Manila would be a tradeable range.
China resumes imports
Chinese billet importers returned to the market this week amid an open arbitrage window between international and domestic prices.
An Indonesian steelmaker was heard to have sold 20,000 tonnes of April-shipment 150mm billet produced using a blast furnace at $395 per tonne fob, or about $407-410 per tonne cfr China, based on an estimated freight rate of $12-15 per tonne
“I expect billet prices to remain at current levels in the near term, with demand from China offsetting the sluggish demand in Southeast Asia,” an Indian trader said.
- Offer at $410 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Iranian billet
- Offer at $410-415 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Russian billet
- Offer at $415 per tonne cfr Indonesia for South Korean billet
- Offer at $415-420 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Vietnamese BF billet
- Offer at $415-420 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Vietnamese EAF billet
- Offer at $415-425 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Malaysian billet
- Bid at $390-400 per tonne cfr Indonesia
- Price estimate at $400-405 per tonne cfr Indonesia
- Offer at $410 per tonne cfr Thailand for Iranian billet
- Offer at $415-420 per tonne cfr Thailand for Indonesian billet
- Offer at $420-430 per tonne cfr Thailand for Malaysian billet
- Bid at $400 per tonne cfr Thailand
- Price estimate at $400-405 per tonne cfr Thailand
- Price estimate at 12.3-13 baht per kilogram ($389-412 per tonne) delivered for domestic billet.