LATIN AMERICA FLAT STEEL WRAP: Import prices set to rise in March
The import markets for flat steel products in South American countries were very muted this month because of the Chinese new year holiday, which took place February 15-21.
The lack of trading has prevented import values from showing any major changes in the past few weeks, but prices are expected to rise in late February/early March with the arrival of fresh China-origin offers in the market.
The latest variation in Metal Bulletin’s weekly price assessment for flat steel goods imported into South America was on February 9, as a consequence of a rush to close deals ahead of the Chinese break. Prices have remained unchanged since then.
Import prices for hot-rolled coil (HRC) into the region were assessed at $600-610 per tonne cfr on February 23, while cold-rolled coil (CRC) and hot-dipped galvanized coil (HDG) import prices were stable at $640-650 per tonne cfr and $700-710 per tonne cfr, respectively.
This week’s prices for flat steel imported into South America, which will be assessed by Metal Bulletin on March 2, were predicted to rise after high-priced offers were heard from China.
Monday February 26 was the first working day for most Chinese mills after the holiday, and people are coming back to the market again.
“The market increased tremendously today,” a trader said on Monday, with the main stimulus being the news of the Tangshan regional government’s plan to extend steel production limits beyond the winter heating season.
But he noted that market participants still do not have a clear view about price trends, because Chinese domestic steel demand still needs some time to recover and stock levels are high after the holiday.
“We need more time to see if this rise in prices can be consistent,” the trader added.
In the meantime, Brazilian companies benefited from the absence of Chinese mills in the market, and from high global prices, to close some export deals with neighboring countries in South America.
Brazil-origin HRC volumes were reported sold along the region’s Pacific coast at $630-635 per tonne fob recently.
The increases announced by Brazilian mills in their domestic flat steel prices during January were fully applied this month.
As a consequence, Metal Bulletin’s monthly price assessment for Brazilian HRC rose to 2,500-2,600 Reais ($772-803) ex-works on February 9, from 2,300-2,400 Reais per tonne ex-works on January 5.
In the same comparison, Metal Bulletin’s monthly price assessment for Brazilian cold-rolled coil (CRC) rose to 2,800-2,900 Reais per tonne ex-works from 2,600-2,700 Reais per tonne ex-works, while domestic prices for hot-dipped galvanized coil (HDG) went up to 3,000-3,200 Reais per tonne ex-works from 2,800-3,040 Reais per tonne ex-works.
Local taxes were not included in any of these prices.
There were no rumors indicating new price adjustments in flat steel goods in Brazil for March, but the potential increases in Chinese prices could encourage local producers to raise their prices again in the near future, according to domestic sources.
“But there isn’t any speculation [about upswings] in the market at the moment,” a steel distributor said.
Felipe Peroni in São Paulo contributed to this report.