China Set to Begin Exporting More Copper; US Steel Import Market Share Up

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Steel imports are up and China may soon send a shock to copper markets by selling its stockpiles of the red metal.

China Could Send Shock to Copper Markets

China may be about to shock the global copper market by unleashing some of its stockpiles of the metal, which are near record highs according to sources inside the secretive government warehouses, onto the global market.

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Four traders of copper, including two from state-owned Chinese smelters, said they expect China to raise its copper exports — which are usually tiny — in the next few months. China’s refined copper exports averaged less than 10,000 metric tons a month in the first two months of 2016, and around 17,000 a month in 2015.

Market watchers are concerned that such a supply shock could stunt or even reverse recent price gains the red metal has made.

Steel Imports Up in March

Based on the Commerce Department’s most recent Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) data, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported today that steel import permit applications for the month of March total 2,969,000 net tons.

This was a 23% increase from the 2,414,000 permit tons recorded in February and a 30% increase from the February final imports total of 2,276,000 nt. Import permit tonnage for finished steel in March was 2,120,000, up 1% from the final imports total of 2,099,000 in February. For the first three months of 2016 (including March SIMA and February final), total and finished steel imports were 7,894,000 nt and 6,448,000 nt, respectively, each down 33% from the same period in 2015. The estimated finished steel import market share in March was 24% and is 25% 0on the year-to-date.

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Finished steel imports with large increases in March permits vs. the February final included standard rails (up 387%), cut lengths plates (up 62%), sheets and strip all other metallic coatings (up 19%), heavy structural shapes (up 16%) and wire drawn (up 11%).

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