SE Asian billet import prices steady despite emerging market currency rout
Prices in Southeast Asia’s steel billet market were unchanged despite a slump in emerging market currencies following investors’ preference for haven assets in uncertain economic conditions, Fastmarkets heard.
Fastmarkets’ daily price assessment for steel billet, import, cfr Southeast Asia - which mainly looks at 120-150mm 5sp grade billet sold into Manila - was $400-410 per tonne on March 19, unchanged from the previous day, while a week ago, the price was at $412-415 per tonne on March 12.
Billet buyers in Southeast Asia were uninterested in procuring any material due to poor domestic long-steel demand amid concerns that the number of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases in their respective countries could spike.
A recent depreciation of many Southeast Asian currencies against the US dollar also made buyers in the region more reluctant to order any imported material, market participants said.
The Philippine currency was trading at 51.51 peso per $1 on March 19, compared with 50.55 peso to $1 a month earlier, while the Indonesian rupiah weakened to 15,360 rupiah per $1 on March 19, from 13,704 rupiah a month ago.
The Thai currency weakened to 32.4 baht per $1 on March 19, from 31.16 baht to $1 a month earlier.
Billet produced in India and Vietnam using blast furnaces (BF) was offered within the range of $410-415 per tonne cfr Manila.
The export market is beginning to look more attractive for Indian suppliers after the country’s currency weakened recently, an Indian trader said.
The Indian rupee was trading at Rs74.35 to $1 on March 19, compared with Rs71.45 per $1 a month earlier.
Japanese billet was reportedly available at $415 per tonne cfr Manila, sources told Fastmarkets.
There are no ongoing negotiations with buyers in the Philippines due to the lockdown in Luzon, however, a trader in the country said.
Philippine mills require some time to adjust to the current circumstances and would not be interested in making any bookings at present, the trader added.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared on March 16 that ‘enhanced community quarantine’ would be implemented effective immediately in Luzon, the country’s most populous island where its capital Manila is located, to control the virus’ spread.
Measures imposed include home quarantine for all residents as well as suspension of work and transportation except for essential services.
The country’s Department of Finance and central bank permitted the Philippine Stock Exchange to resume trading on Thursday March 19, although all activities would be conducted remotely. The exchange had halted trading on Tuesday March 17 after the measures were announced.
China continues imports
Chinese importers booked 30,000 tonnes of Indonesian BF billet and 40,000 tonnes of Russian billet shipped from the country’s Far East ports at $403-404 per tonne cfr China.
There were also ongoing negotiations heard within the range of $400-403 per tonne cfr China, sources said.
Market participants believe the world’s largest steel producer, China, will continue to import billet because domestic prices should continue rising with improved demand after the number of new virus infections slowed over the past few weeks.
- Offer at $405-410 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Russian billet
- Offer at $405-410 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Kazakhstani billet
- Offer at $410 per tonne cfr Indonesia for South Korean billet
- Offer at $410-415 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Indian BF billet
- Offer at $415 per tonne cfr Indonesia for Vietnamese BF billet
- Price estimate at 12.3 baht per kilogram ($380 per tonne) delivered for domestic billet
- Offer at $410-415 per tonne cfr Thailand for Indian BF billet
- Offer at $415 per tonne cfr Thailand for Vietnamese BF billet