Steel Imports Down in August; Indonesia May Allow Nickel Ore Exports

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Finished steel imports into the U.S. were down in August and Indonesia may finally restart shipments of raw ore to other countries, which could bring nickel back to China.

Steel Imports Still Down

Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported recently that the U.S. imported a total of 2,989,000 net tons (NT) of steel in August, including 2,307,000 net tons of finished steel. That’s down 8.5% and 6.6%, respectively, vs. July final data.

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Year-to-date, through eight months of 2016, total and finished steel imports are 21,962,000 and 17,601,000 nt, down 22% and 23%, respectively, vs. the same period in 2015. Annualized total and finished steel imports in 2016 would be 32.9 and 26.4 million nt, down 15% and 16%, respectively, vs. 2015, if the current trends hold.

Finished steel import market share was an estimated 25% in August and is estimated at 25% on the year-to-date.

Key finished steel products with a significant import increase in August compared to July are standard pipe (up 33%), wire rod (up 23%), structural pipe and tubing (up 18%) and hot-rolled bars (up 15%).  Tin plate (up 12%) had a significant year-to-date increase vs. the same period in 2015.

Indonesian Mining Rules

Indonesia is finalizing an overhaul of its mining rules that could give companies up to five more years to build smelters, and reopen exports of nickel ore banned since 2014, the country’s mining minister said on Tuesday.

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The proposed changes provide a way around a 2017 deadline for full domestic processing of mineral ore, potentially pushing completion of that aim to 2022, but also possibly undermining investor confidence.

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