GLOBAL PIG IRON WRAP: Market quiet on reduced trading in US

The global pig iron market was quiet in June with purchasing activity being low in the United States, where buyers booked large volumes in May.

“When the largest consumer postpones bookings, it brings uncertainty to the market,” one trader told Metal Bulletin. “Everyone waits until the trend-setter shows where the market will turn.”

United States
Buyers in the US consume more than 50% of the pig iron in the global import market, according to Metal Bulletin’s estimate.

In June, however, only a few bookings were heard in the US. CIS-origin pig iron was booked at $413 per tonne cfr Mobile, which would be close to $410 per tonne cfr New Orleans. Brazil-origin material was heard to be booked at $412 per tonne cfr New Orleans.

The US buyers were able to postpone bookings in June because they had booked large tonnages a month before and had sufficient stock.

In May, the US bought around 450,000 tonnes of pig iron, according to reports. Only 60,000 tonnes of this were booked from Brazil, with the rest being purchased from the Commonwealth of Independent States.

In June, Metal Bulletin’s average price assessment for US pig iron imports was $412.50 per tonne cfr, up from $406.50 per tonne cfr in May.

The reason for the rise in the market was the higher prices for scrap and finished steel products in the US.

The price for hot-rolled coil (HRC) in areas of the US east of the Mississippi River averaged $991 per tonne in June, compared with $974 per tonne in May. Meanwhile, the average selling price for No.1 busheling in Chicago went up by $10 per ton month-on-month to settle at $395 per ton in June.

Citing the higher prices in the US, pig iron suppliers refused to reduce their offer prices for Italian buyers. It was not until the end of June that traders, who needed to restock, accepted the higher price and purchased Ukraine-origin material at around $415 per tonne cfr.

A confrontation between pig iron suppliers and Italian buyers started in mid-March, when CIS exporters concentrated on the US market following US President Donald Trump’s announcement that there would be a 25% tariff on all steel product imports into the US, and higher demand for pig iron in the country was expected.

Italian steel producers considered pig iron prices to be too high, compared with the prices for final products. Metal Bulletin’s average price assessment for domestic HRC in Southern Europe was €532 ($626) per tonne ex-works in June. This was relatively unchanged compared with the price in May, but it was $365 per tonne lower than the average HRC price in the US.

Meanwhile, Brazilian suppliers, in contrast with exporters from the CIS, were ready to cut prices for other markets.

In mid-June, suppliers in the south of Brazil reduced their prices to $375-380 per tonne from $390-395 per tonne, and managed to sell several cargoes.

But after these sales, Brazilian pig iron producers were heard to be sold out of volumes for August shipments, and some of them for September as well, and had no immediate interest in negotiating further sales.

In the first weeks of the month, the Brazilian pig iron market was suffering from the effects of the truck drivers’ strike in May which caused shortages of raw materials and forced producers to reduce their output.

When production normalized, companies continued to sell large volumes to the domestic market, because market participants reported that prices were more attractive and demand was high because of the low availability of scrap in the local market.