Articles in Category: Ferrous Metals

This week, most exchange-traded metal prices came down to Earth as the Federal Reserve hinted it may finally increase interest rates. The hardest hit was copper, which hit a two-month London Metal Exchange low. Weaker Chinese imports over the past few months and the bearish calls of some major banks have exacerbated copper’s recent price fall.

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When construction is strong in, China copper imports surge… but with them falling? It doesn’t look like demand in the world’s largest consumer is keeping up. Copper is just one of many metals that would be affected by interest rate increases and more hawkish behavior from the Fed, in general, but unlike other non-ferrous metals whose prices have increased on the LME this year — such as zinc and tin — copper has not shown strong demand and generally falling supply. Copper never was fundamentally strong even when its price jumped in Q2.

Trump Trumpets Trade

Politics met metals this week as Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump became the first candidate for President to promise to label China a currency manipulator and take action at the World Trade Organization accordingly.  He also promised to instruct the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to bring more trade cases against China. You’d think he’d be nicer to the country that used to make his ties.

Let’s Exchange, No Spoofs!

The London Metal Exchange and CME Group made headlines this week as the former cut fees in half this month as an apology for moving its live “ring” (where traders make deals using hand gestures on big red couches) trading to a backup location after structural problems were discovered at its brand new London office. As for CME Group, it cracked down on a rogue trader, suspending him for at least 60 days, for “spoofing.” Spoofing is the practice of setting up electronic trades to create demand only to pull out of them at the last minute.

India Hates Steel Dumping, Too

India joined the U.S. and E.U. this week in placing tariffs on cheap imports of hot-rolled and cold-rolled flat steel. Although six countries saw their imports to the world’s largest democracy tariffed, China was, again, the main dumping culprit.

Aluminum Association: Let’s Make a Deal

Speaking of China, not only does the Aluminum Association — North America’s largest trade association of primary smelters — still want a bilateral trade deal with China to set up rules for imports from the People’s Republic, but it signaled this week that it would pursue tariffs similar to those steel has won against Chinese importers if it can’t get the deal it wants for its producer members.

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The AA may even ask the International Trade Commission to reclassify some imports of “semi-finished” product to make them subject to existing taxes.

The month of August has seen the Indian government slap anti-dumping duties on the import of a variety of steel products from six countries including China, South Korea, Brazil and Indonesia.

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In the first week, the import duty was imposed on hot-rolled steel products, while a few days ago, the duty was enforced on certain cold-rolled flat steel products from different countries to protect the domestic industry from cheap imports.

In the first case, anti-dumping duties $474-557 per metric ton were imposed on hot-rolled flat products of alloy or non-alloy steel from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia, according to a government notification.

Coiledsteel_585

Imports of coiled steel will be heavily tariffed in India, too. Source: iStock.

The duty will be in force for six months until February 7.

Hot-Rolled Duties

An anti-dumping duty of $474 per ton was imposed on import of hot-rolled flat products of alloy or non-alloy steel of a width up to 2,100 millimeter with a width up to 25 mm from Korea and Japan.

According to an Indian Express report Korean firms affected by this were Hyundai Steel Co. and POSCO. Three Japanese companies — JFE Steel Corp., Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp. are also on the list. A similar anti-dumping duty was slapped on imports of similar products from China. Exporters Angang Steel Company Ltd. and Zhangjiagang were among the hardest hit. Imports of the same from Indonesia, Russia and Brazil attracted the $474 per mt duty. Read more

Iron ore prices have done an amazing job of defying gravity, the price has risen 41.7% this year after three straight years of losses according to Australia’s Business Insider.

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Prices for 62% fines hit $61.75 per dry ton this week and have averaged $53.64 per dry metric ton this year.

Source: Business Insider

Source: Business Insider

The raw material has variously been called the darling of the commodities market and by Citicorp as 2016’s hot commodity but many are now beginning to ask if enough is enough and just how much support there is for current price levels let alone further rises. Read more

U.S. Flat-rolled steel prices have dropped $20-40/ton so far in August, bringing hot-rolled coil down to $580-600/ton ex-works Midwest.

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There are two schools of thought. First, the current dip reflects a typical holiday slowdown and prices will hold or come back in September. In that scenario, buyers need to secure Q4 requirements and will return to ordering in September. On the supply side, mills are taking downtime in October and Q4 for maintenance, there is still some idled capacity (U.S. Steel and AK Steel) while higher-than-expected final HRC duties and tariffs will keep out imports. The steel market will, therefore, tighten and prices will hold at the current high levels.

U.S. HRC, CRC, HDG Imports (000 tons)

Steel_insight_us_hrc_crc_HDG_imports_082316

Source: AISI, Steel-Insight.

Steel-Insight could not disagree more. While we don’t expect freefall just yet, we do expect HRC prices to be back in the high $300s/ton at some point next year. Read more

Another Chinese steelmaker, Bohai Steel Group, has been given a bailout and Japan’s Tokyo Steel Manufacturing has left prices unchanged for three months.

Bohai Bailout

Bohai Steel Group, the indebted state-owned conglomerate, may receive help from a local government bailout fund to restructure its debts, the online financial magazine Caixin said over the weekend.

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Bohai Steel, which was created in 2010 through the combination of four manufacturers, holds liabilities of $28.9 billion (192 billion CNY) from 105 creditors, alongside assets of nearly CNY 290 billion, Caixin reported.

The Tianjin government plans to create a local asset manager to assist in the debt workout of Bohai Steel, alongside other troubled Tianjin enterprises, the magazine said.

Restructuring of the group represented the biggest since the global financial crisis, Standard & Poor’s analyst Christopher Lee told Reuters in March.

Tokyo Steel Leaves Prices Unchanged

Tokyo Steel Manufacturing, Japan’s top electric arc furnace steelmaker, said on Monday it would keep product prices unchanged for the third month in September, reflecting a slow recovery in its local market.

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Tokyo Steel’s pricing strategy is closely watched by Asian rivals such as POSCO, Hyundai Steel Co. and Baosteel, which all export to Japan.

This week, U.S. Steel got its section 337 investigation against 40 — yes 40 — Chinese steel companies reinstated and we got to see the minutiae of just how the International Trade Commission, administrative law judges and the Commerce Department work together. Or, in this case, don’t work together.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

To tell this tale we must go to a magical place full of bureaucrats called Washington, D.C., where one in every 12 residents, according to the American Bar Association, is a lawyer. The ITC is an independent, bipartisan, quasi-judicial, federal agency that provides trade expertise to both the legislative and executive branches.

AdobeStock_retrostar_bureaucracy_redtape_550_081616

Red tape has beset U.S. Steel’s pursuit of a section 337 investigation against Chinese steel companies. Source: Adobe Stock/retrostar.

The agency also determines the impact of imports on U.S. industries and directs actions against unfair trade practices, such as subsidies, dumping, patent, trademark, and copyright infringement.

What’s an Administrative Law Judge?

The ITC employs ALJs. Five of them, to be exact. These “finders of fact” adjudicate disputes for the six ITC commissioners, who are appointed by the president and confirmed by congress. The ALJs greatly reduce the workload of the commissioners who only deal with the most serious matters that reach their level. At least in theory, that is. Read more

An administrative law judge who suspended U.S. Steel Corp.‘s 337 case against 40 Chinese steel companies earlier this year improperly linked the case to the anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations handled by a separate government agency — the Department of Commerce — according to an International Trade Commission opinion.

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The commissioners initially overturned the suspension on Aug. 5, but did not issue their opinion until yesterday.

US Steel’s Anti-Dumping Cases Not Significantly Related

The commissioners, in overturning the suspension of U.S. Steel’s case, determined ITC rules do not allow for the suspension of a 337 investigation simply in order to notify the Commerce Department as required by statute, and that elements of U.S. Steel’s case involving allegations of price fixing and transshipment “are, at most only partially related to anti-dumping and countervailing duties.”

Administrative Law Judge Dee Lord suspended the case on July 6 because Commerce was not notified of the investigation, and because elements involving price fixing and transshipment, at least partially, fell under the scope of Commerce’s antidumping and countervailing duty investigations.

U.S. Steel’s initial petition, filed on April 26, cites allegations of collusion and price fixing, transshipment to evade anti-dumping/countervailing duties, and theft of trade secrets via hacking by Chinese agents.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

U.S. Steel is seeking a general exclusion order to block all Chinese carbon and alloy steel products from the U.S. market, a limited exclusion order blocking imports from 40 listed steel companies and a cease-and-desist order for their alleged illegal practices.

U.S. Steel claimed that a hack similar to one that happened in 2011 to it and other companies was carried out to acquire the recipe and production process of a popular automotive steel alloy, dual-phase 980, that Baosteel and other Chinese companies began offering shortly after the hack,

At least according to a European Union official familiar with the Union’s steel sector plans, says Reuters.

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The E.U. is certainly ramping up the pressure. This year, alone, the European Commission has 37 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures in place for steel products, 15 of them concerning China, slapping anti-dumping duties on products such as rebar, cold-rolled carbon steel and cold-rolled stainless steel, ranging between 18.4 and 25.3% for imports from China.

Everybody Gets on the Tariff Bandwagon

The E.U. is scheduled to rule on plate and hot-rolled coil from China in November and while rates haven’t been at the same level as the U.S. where up to 520% duties are have been applied, they are estimated by the industry to need to be in the 30-40% range in order to be effective.

Steel mills Molten iron smelting furnace production line

Can China’s zombie steel mills be shut down? Beijing is trying a new tactic. Source: Adobe Stock/ZJK.

Yet despite the unprecedented level of action, carbon steel imports in the year to May rose 21% with China now representing 27% of total E.U. imports, while stainless steel imports rose 17% over the period, E.U. data shows, even though demand remained almost flat. Read more

Saudi Arabia is pushing for an oil production cut among its fellow OPEC nations as well as other big producers such as Russia. In China, Beijing is pushing local governments to cut steel overcapacity.

Saudis: Let’s Make a Production Cut Deal

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will probably revive talks on freezing oil output levels when it meets non-OPEC nations next month as top exporter Saudi Arabia appears to want higher prices, according to OPEC sources, although Iran, Iraq and Russia present obstacles to a deal.

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Riyadh sharply raised expectations for a global production deal between on Thursday when Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Saudi Arabia will work with OPEC and non-OPEC members to help stabilise oil markets.

China Vows to Accelerate Steel Capacity Cuts

China should quicken capacity cuts in its bloated steel and coal sectors, the country’s top economic planning agency said on Tuesday, putting pressure on local officials to meet annual targets despite some worries the steps could hurt economic growth.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

China has promised to slash steel capacity by 45 million metric tons and coal capacity by 250 mmt this year, as it tries to rejuvenate two industries suffering from slowing demand and a massive supply glut.

China’s crude steel output fell in July and Glencore has shelved plans to sell a copper mine in Chile.

Chinese Steel Output Falls

China’s average daily crude steel output fell in July from a record, government data showed on Friday, providing some respite to overseas rivals angered by a torrent of cheap steel from Chinese mills in the past year.

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The output decline reflected China’s efforts to address a chronic glut, and analysts predict production may shrink further in the months ahead as more mills shutter. Some analysts predict output may shrink further in the months ahead as more mills shut in a sector undergoing its most significant — and painful — restructuring in two decades.

Glencore Rethinking Chilean Mine Sale

Glencore has shelved plans to sell a copper mine in Chile that was expected to fetch about $500 million, after failing to achieve a high enough price, according to people familiar with the situation.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

Along with other big mining companies, Glencore has been seeking to offload a range of assets to reduce debt following a commodities price crash, but a rally in raw materials markets and in the value of share prices of mining companies this year has taken away the need for urgent sales at any price.