coking coal price

The monthly Raw Steels MMI® registered a value of 52 in September, a decrease of 5.4% from 55 in August.

Raw-Steels__September-2015In July, it seemed like steel prices were stabilizing for awhile, but prices fell again last month. The decline wasn’t as bad as it could have been, considering that last month China’s stock market sell-off continued and some industrial metals took serious hits.

The bearish commodity environment makes it hard to pick a bottom, proving once again that buying on weakness hasn’t been the best strategy for metal buyers during this market cycle.

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The Real Steel Story

Fundamentally, the steel story is similar to other base metals and can be summarized as: a glut of raw materials everywhere and weak demand unable to keep the market in balance, with China being the main driver on both sides of the equation.

With imports into the US still high, it’s no wonder that US steelmakers keep fighting against the flood of imports. In August, new anti-dumping petitions were filled for HRC and CRC products. The petitioners are the usual group of US producers that have long said that foreign steel imports are subsidized by overseas governments in complete violation of US anti-dumping law. When it comes to price direction, we don’t see these anti-dumping petitions having that much impact.

Demand Side Drivers… Of Cars

The demand picture is mixed and not encouraging:

The car industry seems strong in the US with August numbers showing that it is on track to record one of its best sales years since 2000. On the other hand, the latest Chinese automotive numbers turned out to be even weaker than expected. Chinese auto sales fell by 7.10% in July 2015 compared to July 2014, the largest fall since February 2013.

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While construction activity is strong in the US and Europe, emerging markets and China continue to drag down prices and overproduction of materials for export is actually exacerbating oversupply.

Crude oil fell again in August, with prices sliding as low as $38/barrel. Low energy prices will continue to hurt the energy industry, therefore lowering demand for steel.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

Prices remain weak and it seems clear that there is little going on in the market that could push steel prices up this year. Placing long-term purchases while markets keep falling is not a good strategy. With prices declining at a fast pace, it’s very important for steel buyers to keep an eye on the market and be ready when market sentiment shifts.

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The monthly Raw Steels MMI® registered a value of 55 in August, a decrease of 1.8% from 56 in July.


After Chinese steel prices slumped in July, they fell again in August but were at least more stable. Domestic prices remain low but seem to be stabilizing as well, resulting in our raw steels index dropping by less than 2%. That’s a moral victory for steel these days.

Paring the Decline

This was definitely a small decline compared to what we have seen from other industrial metals last month. Aluminum and copper hit 6-year lows. Not only was July a bad month for base metals, it was also bad for any commodity. Gold and oil prices fell 7% and 22%, respectively. With all these declines, the Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index hit new lows last month.

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Apart from this macro commodity weakness, the fundamentals within the steel industry don’t look much better. Chinese demand seems to be getting worse. Construction data shows that demand from the sector has slowed during this first half. Also, the automotive sector is weakening with vehicle sales falling year-on-year for several months.

Weak Overseas Demand Creates More Imports

On top of the weak demand, a strong dollar has made exchange rates attractive for exporters. Export products raised almost 28% in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. The increase in exports keeps hurting US producers who last week filed petitions with the Commerce Dept. and the US International Trade Commission against 8 countries the domestic industry believes are receiving illegal government subsidies and “dumping” flat cold-rolled coil products here.

3 Best Practices for Buying Commodities

It seems clear that there is little going on in the market that could push steel prices up this year. But this is not about what could make steel prices rise, the question is more like: When will the market think prices have fallen enough? So far, we haven’t seen a shift in market sentiment but that is something that steel buyers might want to pay attention to. Until that happens, it seems risky to buy forward when everything is falling.

Actual Raw Steels Prices

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The Raw Steels MMI® collects and weights 13 global steel and raw material price points to provide a unique view into global steel price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Raw Steels MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

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While domestic prices remained stable in June, Chinese steel prices plunged with its stock market. Also, the non-liquid London Metal Exchange steel billet contract fell sharply, weighing on our index.

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The monthly Raw Steels MMI® registered a value of 56 in July, a decrease of 5.1% from 59 in June.


Chinese Market Reeling

Chinese steel prices are at their lowest level in more than 20 years. Chinese demand seems to be getting worse and industry analysts point out that the fall might not even be close to an end. This threatens the survival of smaller Chinese steelmakers, who are still reluctant to cut production in order to maintain cash flow and bank credit, while other small mills have already shut down.

Construction data shows that demand from the sector has slowed during this first half. Moreover, China’s demand for steel could take a further hit as construction eases over the summer.

Finally, China’s recent stock market turmoil is adding more doubts about its economy. This is definitely not good for steel prices and other industrial metals which we’ve seen falling sharply this month.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

Domestic prices have sort of stabilized over the past couple of months. However, the sharp decline of Chinese steel prices could keep putting pressure on US prices, especially under the bearish commodity environment we are in.

Free Download: Compare With the June MMI Report

The Raw Steels MMI® collects and weights 13 global steel and raw material price points to provide a unique view into global steel price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Raw Steels MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

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The price forecast for US steel markets, much like me after contracting salmonella poisoning last week, has been quite lethargic lately.

An imminent pullout from the doldrums doesn’t look all too likely due to several major factors, which we’ll dive into shortly, and is supported by MetalMiner’s monthly Raw Steels MMI® clocking in with a value of 59 in June, a 1.7% drop from 60 in May.

steel price index chart june 2015

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The monthly Raw Steels MMI® – a price sub-index tracking a basket of finished steel and raw material prices from all corners of the globe – has been unhealthy for quite a while, and (after undergoing a slight recalibration at the end of 2014) has hit a new all-time low this month. Why?

Today’s Steel Market: Some Factoids to Consider

Here are a few elements to take into account:

  • Imports are a huge issue for the US domestic market. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), for the first 5 months of 2015 (including May Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis and April preliminary data), total and finished steel imports were 18,636,000 net tons and 15,365,000 net tons, respectively, up 7% and 20% from the same period in 2014. China plays an outsize role in this: according to data compiled by James May of, Chinese supply of CRC was 6% of the US market in 2014 while Chinese and Indian supply of HDG was a combined 8%. Construction markets in China have stagnated, and rather than shutter mill capacity, the Chinese just ship it out to foreign shores. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang has been quoted as taking a defensive line, saying the rise in steel exports is due to higher global demand and is a result of Chinese steel products having strong “export competitiveness” – but we have our doubts.
  • Therefore, capacity has been dinged. According to AISI, adjusted year-to-date steel production through May 16, 2015 was 33,210,000 net tons, at a capability utilization rate of 72.3%. That is down 7.2%from the same period last year, when the capacity utilization rate was 77%.
  • Distributors are well-stocked with inventory. Until inventories (which are nicely loaded with that imported steel we mentioned) are drawn down, it will be hard to make price increases stick in the near term.

Carbon flat-rolled inventories. Values in millions of tons (add 000 to the end of each number on the chart). Source: MSCI, Steel-Insight. Chart courtesy of Steel-Insight.

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Tomorrow’s Steel Prices: Wild Cards to Watch

  • Anti-dumping filings may help steel prices – but “may” being the operative word, and if so, only in the short term. Filings against imported Chinese coil products may succeed in removing some of that low-priced steel from the US inventory pool, thereby helping US mill volumes, but again, from what we’re hearing, that’s simply a temporary “Band-Aid” solution.
  • What will happen with scrap pricing? As part of this month’s Raw Steels MMI®, our shredded scrap price rose 1.6% over last month, and is in a 3-month uptrend. According to industry sources, scrap is expected to rise anywhere from $10 to as much as $30 per gross ton, depending on the region and product. We’ll have to wait and see where prices end up by the end of June, as that may clue us further into where finished steel pricing is headed.
  • And a last longer-term bit of news from China…An announcement made at the recent Singapore Iron Ore Week, hailed by some as a gamechanger, indicated that steps are being taken toward international trader/broker access to Dalian iron ore. If this indeed goes down, it would signal a big move toward internationalization of China’s futures markets.

Steel Price Outlook: HRC, CRC, HDG, Plate

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The US price of hot-rolled steel coil (HRC) has recently bumped up near the end of May on our IndX, which indicates more broadly that HRC, as well as CRC and HDG steel, seem to be stabilizing after falling for over a year. However, it seems early to call for a bottom. While commodity markets remain bearish and the dollar holds, we don’t expect HRC, CRC or HDG prices to make significant upside moves.

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Steel prices remain at their lowest levels. Almost every industrial metal price rose in April as a weaker dollar gave a boost to commodity markets. However, steel prices remained quiet, hanging at record lows.

The monthly raw steels MMI® registered a value of 60 in May, on par with April’s value.

Raw Materials Undercutting Scrap

Scrap prices are at their lowest levels and we don’t really see anything that could give prices significant momentum on the upside, at least until a bigger supply response is seen.

Why Manufacturers Need to Ditch Purchase Price Variance

Unless we start seeing the dollar depreciate against other currencies, European scrap exports will keep gaining market share, leaving a supply excess for US steelmakers.

Cheaper to Produce

Moreover, although prices seem low, it’s still cheaper to make steel still using iron ore than scrap. Pig iron or billet could substitute some scrap as primary raw material in which case, US exporters would sell more in the domestic market, causing US scrap prices to keep falling lower.

Meanwhile, steel imports keep arriving. Since US prices are no longer inflated compared to the rest of the world ,we would imagine steel imports to start slowing down through the remainder of the year. However, Chinese exports could actually increase due to the recent removal of export tariffs.

Either way, steel demand remains weak, particularly in oil and gas tubular markets while the market remains oversupplied. It doesn’t seem likely that steel prices will rise significantly higher this year.

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Steel held its price for the first time in seven months, breaking a string of losses that most market observers expected would continue.

The monthly Raw Steels MMI® registered a value of 60 in April, on par with March’s value.

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Continuing low prices for iron ore and a generally weak scrap market are causing a deflationary spiral for most grades of steel.

Low Prices, Lower Demand

Steel prices fell sharply during the first quarter and our steel index got a much-needed breather.

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U.S. Steel on Thursday announced more layoffs as it continues to fight lower-priced, surging imports and declining demand in the energy sector, saying it will temporarily idle one of its iron-ore operations in Minnesota, affecting 412 workers.

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The idling of the plant in Keewatin, Minn., which ships to U.S. Steel mills, will take place on May 13 and affects six million tons of iron-ore production capacity, or 27% of U.S. Steel’s overall iron-ore output last year. U.S. Steel said the move is temporary in a statement.

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The steel prices plummet continued this month in the the monthly Raw Steels MMI® and registered a value of 60, a decrease of 11.8% from 68 in February.

In February steel prices fell sharply, not only for semifinished products but scrap prices hit the wall as well. Steel billet fell more than 50% this month for both the spot and 3-month contracts on the London Metal Exchange.

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In January, the global scrap to billet price spread fell to less than $100 a metric ton. This level was unsustainable since melting scrap to make billet is already more expensive than that. For that spread to look more stable scrap prices needed to drop and boy did they ever.

Meanwhile, steel products can’t catch a break. According to recent figures released by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), US steel imports rose 33% in January compared with the year before, reaching 3.85 million tons, compared with 2.9 million tons a year earlier. As a result, US producers keep cutting prices to compete with imports.
In February, the four steel products we track in our forecast reports (CRC,HRC,HDG and plate) dove to record lows. The lowest prices seen since 2009.

The flood of cheap Chinese exports that domestic industries in the US, Europe and India have long blamed for lowering domestic prices received real undercutting competition in the last two months from Ruble-deflated Russia. India first sounded the alarm on the cheap Russian imports, then US steelmakers noted how much Severstal and others were undercutting HRC prices here and then, finally, the Russian Federation, itself, considered export taxes on its own companies who are reaping a windfall of exports paid in dollars against production costs paid in rubles.

With economic sanctions battering an already shaky economy it’s unlikely that Russian steelmakers’ costs will go up unless its Moscow taking its share from them. This low export price situation will likely continue.

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Russian domestic steel prices jumped as domestic producers there continue to seek parity with expanding exports. The government is considering imposing a levy on shipments overseas.

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The price of domestic rebar rose 17% last month, the largest increase among steel products, according to data from Metall Expert Consulting, a research firm with offices in Ukraine and Moscow. Hot-rolled coil climbed as much as 15% in the Russian Federation this month, it said.

“There is a stable demand for Russian steel on the external markets, thus domestic prices are seeking to match export price,” Nikolay Filkevich, project head at Metall Expert, which analyzes the domestic steel market, told Bloomberg News.
Producers are trying to close a price gap that by January had widened to about 4,000 rubles ($58.4) per ton of flat steel after the ruble weakened 48 percent in the past 12 months, according to Metall Expert.

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Spot iron ore slipped to near its weakest level in almost six years, reflecting tepid demand for the commodity in top consumer China, where steel prices have been hit by slower consumption.

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Soft sales have forced more Chinese steel mills to curb production after the Feb. 18-24 Lunar New Year break and hold
back on purchases of the steelmaking raw material, traders told Reuters.

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