STEEL WEEK IN BRIEF: Steel export tax cuts in China, iron ore index nears $77 per tonne, steel prices on the rise ahead of year end...

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

The Chinese market has reported robust demand for seaborne pulverized coal injection (PCI) cargoes amid a surge in prices for domestic and imported coking coal, as well as for locally produced coke.

Seaborne coking coal prices also continued to rise on an fob Australia basis with market participants noting a dearth of January-laycan cargoes.

Metal Bulletin’s fob Australia premium hard coking coal index jumped $5.58 per tonne to $255.47 per tonne on Friday, while the index for hard coking coal fob Australia was up $0.25 per tonne to $183.72 per tonne.

The seaborne iron ore market was further boosted before the Christmas Holiday on steel gains and a positive outlook on first-quarter raw materials demand.

Metal Bulletin’s 62% Fe Iron Ore Index surged by $3.54 per tonne of Friday, reaching $76.36 per tonne cfr Qingdao.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s prices for imports of containerized heavy melting scrap (HMS) increased further this week, tracking the gains of ferrous scrap prices around the world.

Steel

Several major Chinese mills have raised the list prices for most of their January-delivery flat steel products.

East China’s Shagang has rolled over its long steel prices for late December amid softness in the spot market.

Import prices for re-rolling-grade hot-rolled coil in Vietnam rose further, with overall strength in the Asian ferrous markets encouraging sellers to raise their offers.

Import prices for billet in Southeast Asia have risen for a fourth week after a fire at a Middle East steel plant restricted supplies.

Prices for hot- and cold-rolled steel sheet in Russia have stopped falling, with producers refusing to reduce offers any further for domestic buyers amid positive export market sentiment.

CIS export wire rod and rebar prices climbed rapidly over the past week on continuing tight availability.

Rebar producers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) increased their prices, in response to the global price rises and strong domestic demand.

Domestic prices for rebar in Southern Europe rose by €5-10 per tonne as mills in the region raised their offers, while local prices for heavy steel plate moved up on higher slab costs.

Transaction prices for domestic HRC in the European Union are expected to rise in the first quarter of 2018, with some even matching December’s official offers.

In Brazil, steel mills are expected to increase prices to automakers by 20-25% in January, as well as raising prices to the local distribution sector by 10-12%.

Trade policy
It was India’s turn to suffer while China’s pain was eased in the US Commerce Department’s final determination of countervailing duties involving imports of cold-drawn mechanical tubing into the United States.

Australia’s Anti-Dumping Commission said that anti-dumping measures on hot-rolled coil originating in Malaysia, South Korea and Japan will no longer be applied.

And Algeria will end its import licensing system for all products, including steel rebar, in January 2018, according to domestic media reports.

Around the world

Changes in tax rebates for chromium-containing alloyed steel exports would be more important than the recently-announced cuts in export duties for boron-containing steel, according to traders in Asia.

Liberty House Group has closed on its closely-watched acquisition of the former ArcelorMittal rod mill in Georgetown, South Carolina, US.

Italian re-roller Marcegaglia has left AM Investco, the ArcelorMittal-led joint venture aiming to buy Italian steelmaker Ilva. The company will be replaced by Italian investment banking group Intesa and Italian government agency Cassa Depositi Prestiti.

The ability of UK steel producers to capture a greater share of an estimated 11-million-tonnes-per-year UK steel market by 2030 is constrained by competitiveness problems, capability issues and a lack of capacity, according to an independent report commissioned by the UK government.

Swiss special and stainless steel producer Schmolz + Bickenbach (S+B) has put in a bid to acquire a substantial part of Asco Industries (Ascometal), joining two other official bids for the French speciality steelmaker.

India’s JSW Steel is to commission a 4.50 million-tpy slab production facility, at Dolvi in Maharashtra state, in mid-2019.

And Tata Steel is planning to increase its total steel capacity in India to 18 million tpy by expanding its Kalinganagar operations.

Brazilian president Michel Temer has approved a controversial bill to raise royalties on iron ore to 3.5%, from a previous maximum of 2%, despite criticism from the mining sector.

Wesfarmers has agreed to sell its Curragh coal mine in Queensland, Australia to the Coronado Coal Group for A$700 million ($540 million).

The anticipated Chinese production downturn weighed on global crude steel output growth, which slowed to 3.7% year on year in November, the World Steel Association (Worldsteel) said.

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