STEEL WEEK IN BRIEF: Iron ore price surge, Steel Survival Strategies conference, Maersk cyber attack

Metal Bulletin reviews the major stories affecting the steel market over the past week.

Iron ore prices have been rising over the past seven days, with Metal Bulletin’s daily 62% Fe Iron Ore Index ending the week at $64.95 per tonne cfr Qingdao on Friday June 30, up by $8.20 per tonne compared to $56.75 per tonne cfr last week.

Global scrap prices also continued to climb, with strong demand in the major import markets after the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan ended on June 24.

Steel prices
The bullish mood prevailed in the steel products markets as well.

Import prices for re-rolling-grade hot rolled coil (HRC) in Vietnam continued to move up over the past week, amid supply tightness from China.

China’s plate export prices narrowed upwards as the local market strengthened further over the past week, although the increase was limited compared with price rises in other flat steel products.

Export prices for China-origin cold rolled coil (CRC) and hot dipped galvanized coil (HDG) increased by $10-15 and $5, respectively.

And China’s export prices for wire rod moved up on domestic gains, but rebar moved down amid weak demand.

Import prices for steel billet in Southeast Asia have spiked in recent days as buyers from the Philippines finally started to book cargoes after several weeks of very low trading activity.

In Europe, domestic prices for HRC have reached “bottom” after declining for the past month, sources told Metal Bulletin.

And European sellers of long steel products have been determined to increase prices, despite moderate demand.

In the USA, flat and long steel import markets have been at standstill awaiting Section 232 decision.

Trade policy
The US Commerce Department announced its final determination in the anti-dumping case against finished carbon steel flanges from Italy and India.

Brazil extended the deadline for decisions in two anti-dumping investigations into imports of seamless carbon steel linepipe from China and Romania.

Australia started an investigation into imports of rebar from Greece, Indonesia, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand.

Indonesia decided to extend existing safeguarding duties on aluminium-zinc-coated flat steel imports for further three years.

Pakistan imposed an anti-dumping duty on imports of steel billet from China.

Separately, the European Commission increased the import surveillance exemption threshold for certain steel products, easing the constraints on small-scale importers.

And the broad scope of the USA’s Section 232 investigations into the national security implications of steel and aluminium imports has drawn criticism from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Meanwhile, Latin American steel group Ternium expects Mexico and Canada to be excluded from measures related to the investigation.

Steel Survival Strategies
Metal Bulletin’s sister title AMM reported from its Steel Survival Strategies XXXII conference in New York.

Tempers flared at the conference as international steel executives and the head of the United Steelworkers union clashed over the impact of US trade policies.

The global steel market is entering a period of reduced predictability as government policies and commodity volatility wrench demand fundamentals away from their traditional parameters, according to participants at the event.

US producers of automotive steel might need to break away from conventional manufacturing standards and consolidate grades across the industry to push into new frontiers and stay relevant, a Nucor executive said.

Meanwhile, the future of raw materials markets depends on what China intends to do with its burgeoning reserves of ferrous scrap, according to a top executive at the company.

Voestalpine’s 2 million-tpy hot briquetted iron (HBI) plant, the world’s largest HBI facility in operation, produced 1.10 million tonnes of material so far this year as of June. The plant started up in October.

Big River Steel’s ceo David Stickler said the company will continue to challenge traditional conventions in the US steel industry by overhauling its scrap procurement strategies and chasing atypical and specialised end markets.

Around the world

The technology systems of transport and logistics group AP Moller-Maersk Group was hit by a cyber-attack that affected operations at ports in the USA and elsewhere.

As of June 30, most of the port terminals affected were running close to normal again following a cyber attack this week, although some – including Rotterdam, New Jersey and Los Angeles – are still experiencing problems.

The outlook for the Chinese property sector remains sanguine despite a slowdown in real estate construction in the first half of this year, according to participants at Euromoney’s China Growth Investor Forum in Singapore.

China’s steel purchasing managers index (PMI) slipped from a twelve-month high in June, though it continued to indicate that the sector remained relatively buoyant.

In Spain, apparent steel consumption is expected to increase year-on-year in 2017, according to the country’s steel association Unesid.

Ternium expects to continue to bring in steel slab for its Mexican unit from third parties after the conclusion of a deal to acquire Brazil-based slab producer Companhia Siderúrgica do Atlântico (CSA) from ThyssenKrupp.

And finally, Metal Bulletin published a series of monthly wraps, including those for coking coal and coke in China, flat and long steel in Latin America, as well as the EU long steel market.