Articles in Category: Ferrous Metals

Whatever you may think of the merits of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, and you’d be hard pressed to find any of those merits, one early casualty is likely to be the British Steel industry, of which the most high profile example is Tata Steel’s Port Talbot steel mill.

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It has been the subject of huge speculation and media attention since the Indian owners mooted closure or sale in the Spring of this year.

This steel plant at Port Talbot in South Wales, U.K., could close if Tata Steel can't find a buyer. Even as steel prices increased last week. Source: Adobe Stock/Petert2

Has the Brexit doomed any sale of Tata Steel’s Port Talbot facility? Source: Adobe Stock/Petert2

After initially inviting bids to buy the massive steel works and associated facilities, Tata had begun to enter serious talks with the British government about keeping the plant when it became clear millions of pounds of financial aid, lower power costs and a 25% government stake in the business may be in the cards.

Is a Port Talbot Sale Viable?

That has now been thrown into doubt, in fact scuppered is probably more accurate as Tata assesses the viability of keeping a steel production plant in Britain if Britain is probably no longer part of the European single market. Read more

For decades, the hospitality, retail, food and construction industries have taken particular advantage of the European Union’s rules allowing freedom of movement, meaning Europeans can work legally in any of the 28 countries that are members, even if they are unskilled laborers. Non-Europeans must obtain work visas under immigration rules that require graduate-level skills and a minimum annual salary of 20,800 pounds.

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Now that the U.K. has voted to leave the E.U., though, that could all change. When the U.K. does finally untangle itself from its E.U. member-state neighbors — a process that many are promising will be complete within two years — it’s likely to start requiring European citizens to clear the same visa hurdles as other foreign workers. Three-quarters of the 2.2 million people from other E.U. countries currently working in Britain wouldn’t make the cut, according to the Migration Observatory at Oxford University.

Migrants Take the Blame for UK Unemployment

The Leave campaign convinced a slim majority of U.K. citizens, 52%, that it has been too easy for “migrant workers” from Europe to waltz into the country and take British jobs.

Who would benefit from a Brexit? Not the EU. Source: Adobe Stock/Stephen Finn.

Now that the U.K. is officially leaving the European Union, what will happen to non-citizens with jobs on the island?  Source: Adobe Stock/Stephen Finn.

“We have absolutely no power to control the numbers who are coming with no job offers and no qualifications from the 28 E.U. countries,” former London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a speech before the vote. Read more

This week in metals, aluminum prices hit a one-month high, even as surplus material in China looked like it would increase as smelters there went back online.

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Even when metals prices were rising across the board in the first quarter, aluminum was the laggard as oversupply still kept investors from buying it and construction demand remained tepid. Thanks to Chinese stimulus that construction demand has shot up and aluminum prices with it.

Aluminum: Smelt All You Want!

Reuters’ Andy Home and our own Stuart Burns both noted that while Beijing is doing everything it can to clean up overproduction in its steel sector — and the resultant pollution that comes with it — there’s no such commitment from the top when it comes to aluminum, mostly because of the state-of-the-art smelters Chinese companies have invested in.

How are Chinese smelters making money? Source: Adobe Stock/Pavel Losevsky

How are Chinese smelters making money? Source: Adobe Stock/Pavel Losevsky.

So, to recap, steel overproduction and pollution is bad but aluminum overproduction and, relatively, smog-free production? China is a-okay with that. What could possibly go wrong?

Rio Repositions

Meanwhile, things have gone significantly awry at Rio Tinto Group. The Anglo-Australian multinational miner shook up its organizational structure this week and head of iron ore commodities Andrew Harding was passed over for the CEO job by copper and coal division leader Jean-Sebastian Jacques. Jacques, a native of France, has only been there since 2011. Harding has been with Rio for 25 years and had been expected to replace departing CEO Sam Walsh this month. Read more

In a surprise move, Andrew Harding, the head of iron ore at commodities miner Rio Tinto Group has been passed over as CEO to replace outgoing Sam Walsh on July 2 by relative newcomer to the group, Jean-Sebastien Jacques who only joined in 2011 and has headed up Rio’s copper and coal divisions, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

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Harding has been with Rio for 25 years and had been expected to replace departing Walsh in part due to his experience in iron ore which is central to Rio’s existence. The miner generates about half its revenues and around 90% of its earnings from iron ore sales, just 9% from aluminum and copper and the balance from diamonds and other minerals.

Rio Tinto’s Future

The move is seen as part of future plans for Rio to reduce reliance on iron ore and to divest itself of coal assets. Although the firm would argue otherwise — its cost of production for iron ore is a fraction of what it was five years ago — the firm’s expansion into an already oversupplied market is seen by many as a dead end.

Rio Tinto increased iron ore production by 11% last year to 327.6 million metric tons, and that should rise another 7% to 350 mmt by the end of this year, the Telegraph’s Questor column reports. The miner is not alone as rivals BHP Billiton and Fortescue also ramp up production to offset falling prices.

Source Telegraph

Source: Telegraph

This year, the policy appears to have paid dividends as Chinese demand has risen on the back of a short-term boost from a huge government backed loan splurge at the start of the year, but there are signs the economy there is slowing again. Read more

Vietnam and Thailand placed tariffs on Chinese steel exports. China’s Southeast Asian neighbors are joining an international effort to limit its massive steel industry’s influence on world prices led by Europe and the U.S.

Low oil prices forced OPEC’s accounts to dip into deficit for the first time since 1998.

China’s Neighbors Are Sick of Steel Dumping, Too

Countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are challenging a flood of imports from China. They are retooling their steelmaking technology and imposing tariffs as a construction boom spurs steel demand across Southeast Asia

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Steel from China is expected to dominate the market for many years, but swelling demand is driving efforts in countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia to build more modern plants, impose tariffs and better compete with China’s vast mills.

Vietnam imposed temporary anti-dumping tariffs ranging from 14% to 23% on steel imports from China and elsewhere in March. It recently slapped additional import duties of up to 25% on more Chinese steel products that will last until October 2019.

Thailand’s commerce ministry is working on the final draft of an anti-dumping law. The government there expects to propose the draft for approval by end-2016, according to a spokeswoman.

OPEC Accounts Fall into Deficit, First Time Since 1998

OPEC’s 2015 oil export revenues slumped 46% to a 10-year low, the group said in a report published on Wednesday, underlining the impact on producers’ income from a collapse in prices.

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Oil prices are at about $50 a barrel, half their mid-2014 level after being pressured by oversupply. OPEC’s decision in November 2014 to not cut supply, hoping a drop in prices would curb supply from competitors, deepened that decline.

The fallout from the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union is still being felt as lawyers and politicians begin to try to untangle the regulatory mess the eventual move will make and steel imports into the U.S. are up.

Brexit Creates Legal Chaos

Lawyers and lawmakers braced on Friday for uncertainty following the U.K.’s vote to exit the European Union, leaving London to redefine and rewrite its trade and legal ties with the EU, with the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Steel Imports Up in May

Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported that the U.S. imported a total of 2,786,000 net tons of steel in May 2016, including 2,077,000 nt of finished steel (up 12.2% and 1.8%, respectively, vs. April final data).

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On the year-to-date through five months of 2016 total and finished steel imports are 12,795,000 and 10,544,000 nt, both down 31% vs. the same period in 2015.

Annualized total and finished steel imports in 2016 are 30.7 and 25.3 million nt, down 21% and 20% respectively vs. 2015. Finished steel import market share was an estimated 23% in May and is estimated at 24% on the year-to-date.

The Indian government has been taking a number of steps to tackle the serious issue of inflow of cheap steel products from China and other nations.

Free Download: The June 2016 MMI Report

Recently it issued quality control rules that required registration for the manufacture, import and sale of 16 steel products. One of the outcomes of this order was that it would weed out defective and substandard stainless steel used in utensils and kitchen appliances.

The quality control order was issued by the steel ministry in consultation with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), making it compulsory to hold a BIS certificate. The certificates apply to low-grade stainless steel plates, sheets and strips, especially those used for utensils as well as for low nickel austenitic stainless steel sheet and strips used in kitchen appliances and utensils.

The latest Quality Control Order is applicable to some 25 grades of stainless steel. Incidentally, the QCO mainly covers three Indian Standards including IS 5522, IS 15997 and IS 6911. Grades covered by these three standards are: IS 5522 – 304, 302 & 430; IS 15997 – N1 (Min 1% Nickel), N2 (Min 1.5% Nickel) & N3 (Min 4% Nickel); IS 6911 – 405, 430, 410, 420S1, 420S2, 420S3, 431, 440, 201, 201A, 202, 301, 302, 304S1, 304S2, 309, 310, 316, 316L, 316Ti, 321 & 347.

The order was to be implemented by the producer, domestic or foreign, and not the end user.

Well-Received Order

The order placated a section of domestic steelmakers who were clamoring for a stop to cheap imports. In March, after some intense lobbying by steel players, the Indian government extended safeguard duties on a range of steel products by another two years to protect local steelmakers from cheap imports.

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The move was welcomed by the Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA), a trade body representing the stainless steel industry. ISSDA also pointed out that the order will have a minimum impact on the stainless steel utensils market since it does not cover stainless steel containing less than 1% nickel.

ISSDA President N.C. Mathur said the order would ensure competitiveness and growth of India’s manufacturing sector.

BHP Billiton is planning to boost coal production in the next three years while no agreement has been reached about reducing Chinese aluminum overcapacity.

BHP Billiton Bullish on Coal

Top global miner BHP Billiton outlined plans to boost coal output by 8% over the next three years while slashing costs, and said it would only consider premium, lowest-cost assets for any acquisitions.

Free Download: The June 2016 MMI Report

BHP Billiton is the world’s top exporter of coking coal used in steelmaking and also a producer of energy coal. The Australian miner is in the enviable position of running profitable coal mines at a time when more than half the world’s coal mines are losing money.

Andy Home: No Agreement on Chinese Aluminum

“China has committed to ensure that its central government policies and support do not target the net expansion of steel capacity; and to actively and appropriately wind down ‘zombie enterprises’ through a range of efforts, including restructuring and bankruptcy.”

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This statement was made by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew earlier this month after high-level talks with Chinese officials in Beijing. Reuters’ Andy Home, however, writes that while there has, at least, been a meeting of the minds in regards to Chinese steel capacity, the two sides failed to reach any sort of agreement regarding aluminum other than to hold more talks, according to Lew.

Brazilian mining company Vale SA will not financially support Samarco, a joint venture with BHP Billiton, if the company is not able to resume operations, Vale’s head of investor relations said on Thursday.

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Rogerio Nogueira told analysts at an event in Sao Paulo that he did not believe Samarco would need financial support, but that in the event its mine was unable to get permission to restart — there was a major disaster at the dam last year when a tailings dam failed last year —  Vale would not fund Samarco. The joint venture’s iron ore mine closed in November.

Vale received a favorable decision this week when a Brazilian judge ruled it would not have to defend itself against a $5.7 billion civil suit in the matter.

Recently, the Department of Commerce announced affirmative preliminary determinations in the anti-dumping duty investigations of imports of circular welded carbon-quality steel pipe from Oman, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

Free Download: The May 2016 MMI Report

Pakistan got hit with 11.8% initial anti-dumping duties, Oman’s Al Jazeera Steel Products (and all other producers) received 7.86% duties from U.S. Customs and Border Protection when attempting to import its products, producers in the UAE received dumping rates from 6.10% to 9.25%, Pakistan was judged to deserve dumping margins of 11.8% and Vietnam received a whopping nationwide dumping rate of 113.18%.

drillpipe stacked near rig

Why is Al Jazeera Steel fighting dumping margins of just 11.8%? Source: Adobe Stock

This isn’t the first time circular welded carbon-quality steel pipe has come up in the dumping wars. It’s not even Pakistan’s first turn at the welded carbon steel pipe dumping merry go round. Read more