HIGHLIGHTS: China mill losses, US CRC trade case, ArcelorMittal results…

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

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Member mills of the China Iron & Steel Assn (Cisa) saw their combined losses from their steelmaking businesses quadruple in the first half of 2015 to $3.5bn.

Cisa vice-chairman Zhu Jimin said China’s apparent crude steel consumption appears to have peaked, as it fell 3.3% in 2014 and dropped by a further 4.7% over the first half of this year.

China’s daily crude steel output saw its biggest drop in more than four months in mid-July, as mills cut production in response to weak market conditions.

Investment bank Macquarie expects China’s total metallurgical coal requirement to peak in 2016.

Our colleagues from Metal Bulletin Research (MBR) examined the question whether steel exports from China are likely to plateau any time soon in our weekly Steel First Outlook column.

Meanwhile, the daily Metal Bulletin iron ore index for 62% Fe material finished the week at 53.41 per tonne cfr Qingdao on Friday July 31. That is an increase of $1.99 per tonne week-on-week but a drop of $2.48 per tonne from a mid-week high of $55.89 per tonne cfr Qingdao.

Our latest ranking crowned Jefferies analyst Chris LaFemina as the winner of Steel First’s poll of analysts making iron ore price predictions for the second quarter of 2015.

USA CRC imports trade case
Eight of the ten principal supplier nations of cold rolled coil (CRC) imports into the USA have been targeted by a landmark trade case.

Producers in Brazil, China, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, South Korea and the UK face dumping allegations in a trade petition that is casting a much wider net than some had expected.

The reaction from the targeted countries of origin has been mixed.

Russian mills were quick to respond saying that they will see little effect from the anti-dumping investigation.

In China, there was a mixed response as some traders dismissed the filing as being widely expected anyway, while others said it would increase sales pressure in other export destinations.

The European steel market will probably see an increase in CRC imports from a wider variety of suppliers if the USA goes ahead and imposes the anti-dumping duties.

Brazilian steelmakers will face difficulties in finding new markets, sources said.

Brazilian flat steel producers are reducing export prices to Europe, in an attempt to maintain sales volumes, after a reduction in interest in the USA and a fall in domestic orders.

For more information on new, progressed and closed trade cases around the world in July see our latest Trade Case Monitor update.

ArcelorMittal results
ArcelorMittal’s earnings slumped by more than one-fifth year-on-year in the second quarter, as higher steel shipments were offset by lower spot prices and a weak performance from its mining business.

The company’s earnings from its mining operations plunged more than 70% year-on-year in the second quarter on lower iron ore prices.

The world’s largest steelmaker, however, reported a 22.7% year-on-year increase in earnings at its European business for the second quarter.

The growth was driven by higher steel shipment volumes in Europe and cost-optimisation measures.

In Brazil, ArcelorMittal saw earnings decline by 13.2% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2015.

This fall was due to lower average steel selling prices, which were partly offset by higher steel shipment volumes following the restart of the No3 blast furnace at its Tubarão works, in the country’s south-eastern Espírito Santo state.

Around the world
We took a closer look at the UK market this week. UK demand is on the road to recovery, but growing import volumes from China and high domestic energy costs are proving challenging for domestic steelmakers and distributors.

Meanwhile, the Mir Steel hot rolled coil mill in Newport, in south Wales, will begin rolling again by mid-October, according to management company Liberty.

In Italy, steelmaker Ilva has completed the revamp of its 2 million-tpy blast furnace No1 at its main site in Taranto, and will restart it by August 6.

Automotive sector participants in Turkey expect the current positive trends to continue for the rest of the year, provided the country’s political problems are resolved.

And finally, in the latest Steel First interview we looked at the rise and transformation of Chinese trading house Sinomet.