HIGHLIGHTS: EU stainless import duties, China consolidation, Irepas Paris

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

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The European stainless steel industry has welcomed the European Commission decision to impose provisional anti-dumping duties on imports of cold rolled flat stainless steel from China and Taiwan.

The trade action is expected to normalise import levels and boost the domestic market. The provisional rates were set at 24.3-25.2% for Chinese companies and at 10.9-12% for Taiwanese companies, and took effect on Thursday March 26.

Exporters from China and Taiwan are looking for new destinations to ship stainless flat products following the trade action in Europe.

European cold rolled flat stainless steel base prices held steady as the market learned of a new trade action.

In our weekly Steel First Outlook column, our colleagues from Metal Bulletin Research (MBR) took a closer look at Acerinox, the European stainless steel producer that has outperformed its peers in recent years.

China consolidation
The announcement by Hebei’s provincial government that it would shut down steelmaking furnaces of certain sizes boosted sentiment in China’s steel market at the beginning of the week.

Hebei, the country’s steelmaking hub, is aiming to phase out blast furnaces of 450 cubic metres and below, as well as basic oxygen furnaces of 40 tonnes and under.

China is looking to build between three and five “giant” mills in a bid to consolidate its steel industry.

China’s 10 largest steelmakers will account for 60% of all China output by 2025 as part of the plan, China’s state-owned media outlet Xinhua reported last weekend.

We asked the market whether this concept is likely to solve the country’s steel overcapacity problem.

Australia’s competition regulator has hit out against comments made by Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) chairman Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest this week, which called for iron ore producers to limit their output.

Meanwhile, the Metal Bulletin iron ore spot index for 62% Fe material fell to a new low of $53.14 per tonne cfr Qingdao at the end of the week.

At the same time last year the index stood at $112.88 per tonne.

Saudi-Yemeni conflict, Russia exports. Lucchini blast furnace

The Saudi Arabia-led military air strike on the Yemeni capital of Sanaa could affect regional trade soon if a wider conflict develops, market sources told Steel First on Thursday March 26. Yemen is one of the major importers of Turkish rebar.

Russia’s steel product export volumes will rise by 8% year-on-year in 2015 amid lower consumption at home, according to national industry association Russian Steel (Russtal). The country’s steelmakers will have two options this year in the face of declining demand in the domestic market, Russtal said: either to boost exports; or to reduce capacity utilisation.

Algerian food processor Cevital is making plans to restart the 2.4 million-tpy blast furnace at the former Lucchini steelworks in Italy, the Italian ministry of economic development confirmed on Tuesday March 24.

Irepas Paris
Concern over Chinese and CIS steel exports featured strongly at the 72nd International Rebar Producers and Exporters Assn (Irepas) conference in Paris.

Eurofer is in the preparatory stages of filing an anti-dumping case against imports of rebar from China, particularly into the UK.

Long steel demand in Europe will rebuild as the seasonal recovery in construction activity gains momentum, delegates heard.

Scrap collectors based in Europe and the USA are expected to consolidate due to overcapacity, according to Jens Björkman of Swedish scrap company Stena Metal International.

Trade cases & policy
The Mexican government has initiated a review of existing countervailing duties on imports of hot rolled coil (HRC) from Russia and Ukraine.

The European Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee has said the tariffs that protect the EU’s energy-intensive industries, such as the ferrous metals sector, should not be removed in trade deal talks with the USA.

The committee is one of 14 such bodies that will give detailed opinions in the coming weeks on negotiations to forge a Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement between the EU and the USA.

And finally, nearly 70% of US industry participants expect cold rolled and coated trade cases to be filed in 2015, according to a survey by Steel First sister title AMM.