STEEL WEEK IN BRIEF: Scrap prices fall, HRC trade case in Brazil, bids for France’s Ascometal...

Metal Bulletin reviews the major stories that have affected the steel market over the past week.

Iron ore prices ended the week on the rise, after some falls over the period. Metal Bulletin’s 62% Fe Iron Ore Index hit $76 per tonne on Friday, boosted by gains in China’s futures market.

Buyers of seaborne coking coal are waiting on the market sidelines in expectation of lower prices in the weeks ahead. Metal Bulletin’s cfr China indices were unchanged on Friday, at $212.66 per tonne for premium hard coking coal and $192.59 per tonne for hard coking coal.

A lower level of concern about supply in the seaborne coking coal market led to prices for the steelmaking raw material to begin to retreat this month, but just how low they fall will be determined by how quickly demand rises over the next few weeks when Chinese buyers make their expected return, according to Metal Bulletin’s analysis.

The scrap prices in the major markets such as Turkey, India and Taiwan softened in line with weak demand from Turkish steel producers. The exception was the market in the United States.

Firm market conditions led export prices for Brazilian pig iron to rise for the second week in a row.

The sparse trading activity in China’s domestic market for hot-rolled coil (HRC) failed to sustain the upward momentum for prices on Friday, resulting in them retreating again after just a day of recovery.

On the other hand, Chinese domestic rebar prices strengthened on gains in the futures and billet markets.

Import prices for steel billet in Southeast Asia widened downward because lower offers of China-origin billet had a negative effect on price negotiations.

Iranian export billet prices fell by $10 per tonne while several bookings were heard done at lower prices.

Russian producers have significantly increased their prices for hot- and cold-rolled steel sheet from January production for domestic buyers, amid favorable export market sentiment.

Export slab prices from the CIS region rose by $25 per tonne over the first half of January, because of the rise in finished flat steel prices as well as the reduced availability of the semi-finished material.

Domestic prices for hot-dipped galvanized (HDG) coil in the EU are expected to increase faster in 2018 than those for other flat steel products.

Domestic prices for steel wire rod rose by €5-20 per tonne in Southern Europe this week because of higher ferrous scrap costs.

And Brazilian steelmaker Usiminas has increased its flat steel prices for the domestic distribution chain by 13%.

Trade policy
Brazil has decided not to impose final trade sanctions against imports of HRC from China and Russia, despite the confirmation of dumping practices.

Mexico has removed definitive countervailing duties on certain imports of graphite electrodes from China and the United Kingdom.

US pipe mills have filed trade petitions complaining that imports of large-diameter welded line pipe from six nations - including China and Canada - were dumped, and that some received unfair support from government subsidies.

Around the world
Swiss special and stainless steel producer Schmolz + Bickenbach (S+B) and international metals group Liberty House have both submitted bids to buy French speciality steelmaker Asco Industries (Ascometal).

Industrial action at Spanish steel company Megasa is causing disruption to the European long steel markets, with deliveries delayed and material supply tightening.

Latvian authorities are planning to sell the country’s sole steelmaker, insolvent KVV Liepajas Metalurgs, at auction in several parts.

German steelmaker Saarstahl is planning to install a new continuous billet caster.

Europe could face a deluge of steel imports previously destined for the US if President Donald Trump’s Section 232 investigation leads to stricter import duties on steel products, German steel association WV Stahl has warned.

And Trump’s “America First” trade policy could backfire on the country’s automotive industry to a significant extent, industry executives and analysts have said.

Traders in the US booked tens of thousands of tonnes of rebar from Turkey in deals between Monday and Thursday.

United Arab Emirates steel producer Conares Steel started the construction of a new line to produce color-coated coil, or pre-painted galvanized iron (PPGI), early in January.

Turkey’s Tosyali Holding is planning to build a steel plant in Ethiopia to produce billet and rebar, reducing the country’s reliance on imports.

Vale believes that it would be the “best owner” of Brazilian iron ore pellet producer Samarco, amid market rumors of a potential exit from the joint venture by its other owner, BHP.

Rio Tinto hopes to produce 7.5-8.5 million tonnes of hard coking coal in 2018 after its output for 2017 fell by 5% due to weather-related disruptions in Australia in the earlier part of the year.

BHP has lowered the guidance for its metallurgical coal output in its 2018 financial year ending June 30, amid production issues at its Broadmeadow and Blackwater mines in Queensland, Australia.

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