GLOBAL BILLET WRAP: Thin trading sees prices struggle in most markets

Steel billet prices in most markets were stable or went down in the week from Monday April 16 to Friday April 20 on reduced trading activity worldwide, with the exception of China, where prices strengthened slightly amid good demand.

Raw materials
Global scrap prices could not recover last week after the decline in Turkish scrap import values, caused by weak rebar demand in the country’s domestic and export markets.

Metal Bulletin’s daily index of HMS 1&2 (80:20) ferrous scrap of Northern European origin was $342.64 per tonne cfr Turkey on April 20, down from $350.18 per tonne on April 13.

Iron ore prices, however, showed a slight recovery, with Metal Bulletin’s daily index of 62% Fe material rising to $67.06 per tonne cfr Qingdao on April 20, up by $2.10 week-on-week.

Chinese billet prices reached 3,560 yuan ($567) per tonne on Friday, 80 yuan per tonne higher than last week.

The inventory for the product in Tangshan was 630,000 tonnes on Friday, up by 100,000 tonnes from a week ago, according to a billet trader in Tangshan quoting a local industry information provider.

Billet prices increased on steel futures gains and good demand, according to sources.

Due to higher domestic prices, export offers also increased last week. Offers for Q235-grade 150mm billets were $530-535 per tonne fob, up from the $525 per tonne of the previous week, while offers for Q235/Q275-grade 130mm billet were $550 per tonne fob. But no transactions were concluded because of the high prices, Metal Bulletin was told.

Southeast Asia
Import prices for billet in Southeast Asia were flat over the week amid scant offers from China, and with some buyers taking a wait-and-see approach.

Deals involving cargoes from the Commonwealth of Independent States and South Korea were booked around $545 per tonne cfr to the Philippines.

Russia-origin billet was offered around $550 per tonne cfr while offers for South Korean material were heard around $545 per tonne cfr. Taiwanese offers came in at $565 per tonne cfr Manila, but buyers found them too expensive to accept.

May-shipment cargoes from Brazil were heard offered at $540-545 per tonne cfr.

Some participants said that it was surprising to see Brazilian mills offering billet to Asia instead of producing slab for North America, where demand for the latter is strong. Brazil is exporting slab at high prices to the United States because it is temporarily exempt from newly announced US import tariffs.

Southeast Asian billet buyers are also unlikely to buy from Brazil partly because delivery will take too long, according to the sources.

There were very few offers from China heard in the spot market over the past week, in comparison with the week before, when most of the concluded transactions involved Chinese billet. Chinese sellers retreated from the international market late last week amid a slight rebound in domestic rebar and billet prices, sources said.

Traders estimated that Chinese suppliers were looking to export billet at around $540-545 per tonne cfr, up by $10-15 per tonne from a week earlier.

Filipino consumers indicated their interest at $530-545 per tonne cfr.

“Re-rollers here are ready to buy now; they’re just waiting for a good price,” a trader based in the archipelago said.

Indonesian re-rollers did not book much billet over the week because export offers were still too high for them, market participants said. Buyers in the country were looking to buy at $525-535 per tonne cfr.

From Iran, billet offers were heard at $508-510 per tonne fob. An Indonesian buyer was heard to have purchased Iranian billet at $525-530 per tonne cfr to roll into wire rod.

Prices for Iranian cargoes are not included in Metal Bulletin’s price assessment of Southeast Asian billet imports.

CIS, Middle East-North Africa
In the CIS region, most mills decreased their offers from $520 per tonne fob Black Sea to $510-515 per tonne fob early last week.

But customers were not ready to accept these prices yet, according to market sources. Traders were heard bidding $500-505 per tonne fob, but mills were not ready to offer such large discounts, Metal Bulletin has learnt.

On the other hand, a Turkish buyer was heard to buy billet last week for less than $510 per tonne fob from a trader.

Meanwhile, Iranian mills have offered $505-510 per tonne fob for billet, but bookings were heard done at $500-505 per tonne fob in the Gulf Co-operation Council nations, Egypt and East Asia, which led customers to estimate the workable price at $500 per tonne fob or lower.

Turkish prices for imported and exported billet went down last week, in line with the low demand for both finished and semi-finished steel products and weakening imported scrap costs.

Suppliers in the CIS region were offering billet to Turkey at $530-535 per tonne cfr, but customers there were willing to pay only $520 per tonne or less.

Other than a single deal done at $525 per tonne cfr Turkey, there has been no significant trading activity over the past week.

Meanwhile, Turkish billet export prices also went down. Metal Bulletin’s weekly price assessment for billet exports out of Turkey was $540-550 per tonne fob, down from the previous week’s $550-560 per tonne.

But domestic billet prices in the country have been largely stable.

Turkish long steel producer Kardemir, in the Karabük region, opened its domestic billet sales at around $538-542 per tonne on April 17. It closed its sales on the same day after selling 60,000 tonnes, sources said.

Metal Bulletin’s weekly price assessment for domestic billet on Thursday was unchanged week-on-week at $535-540 per tonne ex-works.

Imported billet prices in Egypt fell over the week, with CIS-origin billet offers into Egypt at $533 per tonne cfr, down from $540-545 per tonne cfr the week before.

A deal was heard at $530 per tonne cfr to Egypt from the CIS region.

Iranian export semi-finished steel prices went largely unchanged because of the lack of activity in the market.

Several cargoes were reported sold to the Persian Gulf region within the range of $500-505 per tonne fob.

And another booking was heard done to Indonesia at $520 per tonne cfr, equivalent to $495-500 per tonne fob.

Vlada Novokreshchenova in Dnepr, Jessica Zong in Shanghai, Fiona Lam in Singapore, Serife Durmus in Bursa and Felipe Peroni in São Paulo contributed to this report.