STEEL WEEK IN BRIEF: Iron ore prices down, coking coal prices recover, steel trade flows series…

Metal Bulletin reviews some of the key news and price moves from the past week in the global steel market.

Steelmaking raw materials prices have reported different trends over the period.

The seaborne iron ore market remained under pressure on Friday March 31 amid rising supplies and thin trading activity for steel products, with Metal Bulletin’s 62% Fe Iron Ore Index dropping to $80.39 per tonne cfr China – down $1.39 on a daily basis and down by 11.92% month-on-month.

This is the lowest iron ore price since January 10, when the index was $79.43 per tonne cfr.

Uncertainties over the impact of Cyclone Debbie on coal mines and infrastructure in Queensland, Australia, kept the seaborne coking coal market quiet on Friday.

On March 31, Metal Bulletin’s indices were at $165.74 per tonne cfr China, up from $163.89 a week earlier, and at $151.91 per tonne fob Australia,  against $145.4 a week before – for premium hard coking coal.

Earlier this week, Yancoal Australia has declared force majeure on its Middlemount operations amid heavy rainfall in Queensland, Australia, with production at the Yarrabee mine also affected by rain. BHP Billiton has also temporarily suspended its operations at some of its coal mines in the region. [LINK 2]

But some market participants are expecting higher offers to materialise next week.

And Chinese market participants have a slightly rosier outlook for the country’s domestic coking coal market in April because of support from rising coke prices.

Prices for ferrous scrap arriving in India in containers dropped this week under pressure from soft global scrap markets, while import prices for containerised HMS-grade ferrous scrap in Taiwan have plunged, leaving market participants wondering whether they have bottomed out.

Meanwhile, prices in the Turkish A3-grade short-sea scrap import market have remained largely stable over the past week.

Steel prices
Metal Bulletin analysed the developments of the flat steel and long steel markets in Latin America during March, as well as the outlook for flat steel and long steel in Europe for April.

For semi-finished products, import prices for steel billet in Southeast Asia have dropped over the past week as Chinese material re-emerged more widely in the market at competitive offer prices.

The slab import market in Asia has seen little activity over the past few weeks with offer prices from major global suppliers remaining high even as Chinese flat steel prices tumbled.

Prices in the Black Sea slab export market remained relatively unchanged over the past week, despite the negative sentiment in the global scrap and iron ore markets.

In Europe, alloy surcharges for April deliveries of grade-304 cold rolled (CR) stainless steel have increased to their highest level for five years, after a rise in the average nickel and ferrous scrap prices.

In the USA, Nucor Grating, a subsidiary of USA-based Nucor Corp, has boosted bar grating prices due to rising steel costs, and Gerdau Long Steel North America has increased merchant bar prices, citing “extraordinary” and “escalating” costs in a March 28 letter to customers.

Trade policy
Metal Bulletin published the second and the third in a series on how global trade flows have changed since the rise of protectionism in the steel Market.

We looked at the unintended consequences of recent HRC trade cases involving Brazil. The Latin American country is currently a party to two major anti-dumping cases, both launched in July last year. But in one it is a petitioner while in the other it is the defendant.

And we also analysed how global movements in the flat steel market have been seriously affected by the direct and indirect effects of EU import duties on cold rolled coil (CRC) from Russia and China.

Vietnam has imposed definitive anti-dumping duties as high as 38.34% on galvanized flat steel products from China and South Korea, as well as preliminary anti-dumping duties of as high as 36.33% on imports of steel H-beam from China.

Thailand, meanwhile, has imposed definitive anti-dumping duties on imports of alloy and non-alloy aluminium-zinc-coated flat steel and pre-painted galvanized flat steel products from Vietnam.

And India has resumed an investigation into circumvention of anti-dumping duties on cold rolled (CR) stainless steel flat products.

Pakistan may add Russia to the list of countries on whose steel products it imposes anti-dumping duties, the country’s CRC producer Aisha Steel said in its financial results statement.

In the USA, domestic mills have filed a wide-ranging trade petition against imports of carbon and alloy steel wire rod from ten nations.

And the US Department of Commerce has determined final duties on imports of cut-to-length carbon and alloy steel plate from eight nations.

Around the world

Metal Bulletin attended the 76th Irepas (International Rebar Exporters & Producers Assn) meeting in Budapest, Hungary.

At the event, FD Baysal, president of US trading company Seba International, said that trade defence investigations in the USA are becoming less concerned with whether companies are actually dumping steel products in the country.

And Thomas Elford, steel trader at UK-based Stemcor said that Turkey is increasing its billet export volumes and could target the conflict-hit Black Sea region as a destination for shipments.

Meanwhile, Indian speciality steel producer Mukand and Japan’s Sumitomo have agreed to form a joint venture to roll and finish alloy steel products.

Japan’s JFE Steel and Marubeni-Itochu Steel have acquired small stakes in Indonesia’s largest tube & pipe manufacturer, Steel Pipe Industry of Indonesia (Spindo).

In Latin America, Gerdau has entered into an agreement to form a joint venture with Putney Capital Management, based on the sale of its 50% interest in Colombia’s Gerdau Diaco.

And finally, Brazilian miner Vale has appointed Fabio Schvartsman as its new ceo, replacing Murilo Ferreira who will leave the company on May 26.