HIGHLIGHTS: Brazil in crisis, China steel margin pain, risks in Europe…

Editor Vera Blei looks at the main news covered by Steel First of the past week.

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All eyes were on Brazil this week, as we reported extensively from the 26th Brazilian Steel Congress, organised by the local steel association, IABr.

The headlines were bleak with the country’s industry in crisis, steel demand down and no let-up in pressure from Chinese imports.

The Brazilian manufacturing industry, not only the steel sector, “is going through one of its worst crises”, IABr president Benjamin Baptista said

The economy is expected to only gradually pick up after this year’s recession, economists said.

ArcelorMittal will temporarily halt operations at one of its ten long steel rolling mills in Brazil because of weak market conditions, Long Carbon Americas ceo Jefferson de Paula has said.

The country’s apparent long steel use is expected to fall by nearly 10% year-on-year in 2015, he said.

Local steelmaker CSN plans to start a sale of non-core assets this year, ceo Benjamin Steinbruch said.

The company is also moving ahead with its strategy to increase its steel export volumes to compensate for the weak domestic market, he said.

Usiminas commercial vp Sérgio Leite added his voice to calls for Brazil to take “stronger action” against the high volumes of flat steel and steel-containing imports from China.

China steel margins
Several more Chinese steelmakers have announced pessimistic forecasts for their financial performance in the first half of 2015 against the backdrop of a depressed spot steel market.

Steel First examined how much longer steel mills in China can function in face of mounting losses.

Demand signals from the construction sector, which accounts for around a third of the country’s steel demand, are weak.

China’s vehicle industry has been under pressure to meet its sales targets for this year, but now a significant degree of volatility in the stock markets has delivered another blow to car sales.

As domestic steel demand slows down, exports keep growing.

China’s finished exports surged by 26% on a yearly basis in June, as mills strove to maintain a competitive edge in the global market.

Trade policy
Imports of China-origin steel products into the USA should be allowed to enter freely to benefit the manufacturing sector rather than be hindered by trade cases, Dan Pearson, former chairman of the US International Trade Commission (ITC), has told Steel First.

The Mexican government has imposed provisional anti-dumping duties on imports of welded carbon steel tube from India, Spain and the USA, the country’s economy secretariat said.

The Australian Anti-Dumping Commission has been granted more time to conclude its investigation into the alleged dumping of hot rolled plate into Australia.

There is a reasonable indication that US imports of corrosion-resistant steel sheet from five countries threaten material injury to the domestic industry, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) said in a unanimous vote.

And finally, a new draft law intended to regulate Algeria’s imports and exports may indirectly influence demand for long steel products, sources told Steel First.

Around the world

The European Commission’s proposed revisions to the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) came under attack from the region’s steel associations.

European steel association Eurofer also warned that steelmakers will see little benefit from expected demand growth in the region as the positive effect will be offset by growth in import volumes.

Steelmakers in Europe need a global level playing field to secure a positive future, ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe executive board member Heribert Fischer told Steel First.

Tata Steel Europe is to make 720 workers redundant at the company’s UK special steels business, mainly due to high energy costs, the steelmaker said.

Increased productivity in the UK construction and manufacturing sectors is expected to drive steel demand growth in the second half of 2015, the National Assn of Steel Service Centres (Nass) has said.

Meanwhile, UK steelmaker Albion Steel is planning to build the first carbon steelmaking plant in the country for 40 years.

The planned steel plant in Sheffield, in northern England, is expected to produce about 450,000 tpy of hot dipped galvanized steel (HDG).

Elsewhere, Steel First revisited Baobab’s Tenge-Ruoni project in Mozambique’s coal-rich northern region of Tete and looked at the junior iron ore miner’s downstream ambitions.

Turkish steel exporters are looking to increase their market presence in regions where they have a lower market share, such as Africa, Cihan Akdeniz, market analyst at the Turkish Steel Exporters Assn (CIB), told Steel First in an interview