HIGHLIGHTS: Iron ore prices slip further, China steel gloom, Turkey cheers US rebar decision

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

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Further drops in iron ore benchmark prices and negative sentiment running through the Chinese steel market were the main discussion points this week. 

Investment bank Macquarie forecasts an average iron ore price of $92 per tonne cfr China for 2015, and annual averages in the $85-95 per tonne rage until 2020.

Iron ore market participants in Brazil are becoming increasingly worried about the effect of the sharp decline in global iron ore prices on their operations.

Meanwhile, the dramatic drop in seaborne prices to five-year lows triggered a boom in the raw material’s paper market, with the Singapore Exchange (SGX) clearing just under 18 million tonnes of iron ore futures, swaps and options in the first week of September.

The Metal Bulletin Index for 62% Fe material cfr Qingdao started the week at $83.98 per tonne and finished on Friday September 12 at $82.38 per tonne. The index stood at $136.69 on September 12, 2013.

Ukraine crisis
In Ukraine, some discussions shifted to post-crisis plans after a ceasefire came into effect on September 5, attempting to halt hostilities between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia separatists.

Russian coking coal and steel producer Mechel said that it would aim to sell its Donetsk Electrometallurgical Plant (DEMZ) in Ukraine once the fighting in the east of the country ends.

Ukraine’s largest pig iron producer, Donetskstal (DMZ), is looking to restart pig iron production next week, once railway repairs are completed.

Meanwhile, prices for Russia-origin pig iron rose by $5 per tonne in the absence of Ukrainian material in the market. Steel First’s price assessment for Russia-origin basic low-manganese pig iron rose to $420-430 per tonne fob Baltic Sea on September 11.

Trade cases
“Surprised”, “stunned” and “shocked” were the reactions from some US executives, following the decision by their country’s International Trade Administration (ITA) to suspend its anti-dumping investigation into imports of Turkish rebar and set only minimal countervailing margins.

The decision was cheered in Turkey, where exporters claimed victory.

Turkish mills will now wait to see what effect this will have on offer prices from US domestic producers before announcing their latest rebar offers.

The ITA, however, maintained steep dumping margins for Mexico-origin rebar, a decision which was promptly condemned by Mexico’s steel associatioin, Canacero.

Elsewhere, the Vietnamese government imposed definitive anti-dumping duties on cold rolled stainless steel coil and sheet from China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Columns, conferences
In our regular columns, our colleagues from Metal Bulletin Research (MBR) say that US domestic flat rolled prices have plateaued and could soon come under pressure, as supply is about to overshoot demand, while our Man of Steel examines the disparity between semi-finished and finished steel prices.

And finally, we reported from two conferences held in Abu Dhabi this week.

Speakers at Metal Bulletin’s International Steel Tube & Pipe conference expected Middle East OCTG demand to dip, Russian gas exports to swing to Asia, and the Ukraine crisis to boost fracking in the EU.

At Metal Bulletin’s 19th Galvanizing & Coil Coating conference, delegates heard how political instability in countries neighbouring Turkey is affecting its economy and resulting in a slowdown of the construction sector, while there was also a call for European service centres and distributors to consolidate.