Articles in Category: Ferro Alloys

The U.S. Department of Commerce. qingwa/Adobe Stock

The impact of the U.S.’s Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs on its relationships with other countries has been well-documented — but what about Section 232 challenges at home?

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For domestic businesses seeking to win product exclusions from the tariffs that went into effect March 23, the process has been slow going, to say the least.

Even now, exclusion requests and objections continue to roll in every day.

In June, the Department of Commerce (DOC) announced its first responses to a small percentage of exclusion requests — which then hovered around 20,000 — granting 42 requests (from seven companies), while also denying 56 requests from a total of 11 different companies.

As of late last month, the DOC had received more than 38,000 exclusion requests and 17,000 filed objections — and the numbers continue to rise, with objections being filed this week.

Earlier this summer during a Senate Finance Committee hearing — during which Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testified — committee members offered criticism of the exclusion request process, questioning if the DOC was prepared for the number of requests that have come in.

While some progress has been made since June, the DOC has still produced determinations for a relatively small percentage of the overall requests.

Naturally, with the exclusion request process under fire for its lack of pace, the DOC announced a change last week that it hopes will streamline the process.

According to a DOC release, it has implemented an updated rebuttal system, which is available to “all U.S. businesses which have not received a final determination.”

“The Department of Commerce and the Bureau of Industry and Security have made an unprecedented effort to ensure American businesses are not unduly harmed by Section 232 tariffs,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These updates will help perfect the process to ensure a fair hearing for all parties involved.”

The Bureau of Industry and Security published information in the Federal Register on an interim final rule governing the process, which went into effect Sept. 11.

“The revisions are informed by the comments received in response to the March 19 rule and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (referred to henceforth as “the Department”) experience with managing the exclusion and objection process,” the rule document on the Federal Register states. “The Department understands the importance of having a transparent, fair and efficient exclusion and objection process. The publication of today’s rule should make significant improvements in all three respects, but due to the scope of this new process, BIS is publishing today’s rule as an interim final rule with request for comments.”

Per the DOC release, exclusion requesters have seven days to submit a rebuttal. Then, objectors will have seven days to submit a surrebuttal.

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“To further assist industry moving through the process, the Department of Commerce is also cataloging the Objection, Rebuttal, and Surrebuttal Identification Number associated with each Exclusion Request,” the DOC release states. “The Aluminum Rebuttal & Surrebuttal Finder and the Steel Rebuttal & Surrebuttal Finder will be uploaded each day at www.commerce.gov/232.”

UPDATED 11:47 AM with Comments from President Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the American Iron & Steel Institute.

President Donald Trump will sign a directive asking for a speedy probe into whether imports of foreign-made steel are hurting U.S. national security, two administration officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

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Trump signed the memorandum related to section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 at the White House with leaders of some domestic steel companies, such as U.S. Steel‘s CEO Mario Longhi and SSAB Americas President Chuck Schmitt in attendance. The law allows the president to impose restrictions on imports for reasons of national security. The order would only task the Commerce Department with starting a probe into the imports and if they, indeed, harm national security. Reuters reported that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has already tasked Commerce personnel with starting the probe.

Trump said Ross and Commerce would be back “very, very soon” with recommendations about how to protect the American steel industry. He also repeated campaign trail criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement and said that farmers in Wisconsin are also suffering from cheap imports of dairy products from Canada.

“Times of crisis call for extraordinary measures. Massive global steel overcapacity has resulted in record levels of dumped and subsidized foreign steel coming into the U.S. and the loss of nearly 14,000 steel jobs,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron & Steel Institute, the largest trade organization of North American steel producers. “The Administration launching this investigation is an impactful way to help address the serious threat posed by these unfair foreign trade practices, and we applaud this bold action.”

According to Ross, the investigation was “self-initiated” by Commerce and will consider “the domestic production (of steel) needed for the projected national defense requirement” and if domestic industries can meet that requirement. It will also look at “the impact of foreign competition on specific domestic industries and the impact of displacement of domestic product because of foreign imports.”

There are national security implications from imports of steel alloys that are used in products such as the armor plating of ships and require a lot of expertise to create and produce.

The Department of Commerce today announced its affirmative final determinations that steel producers in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and Taiwan are dumping imports of carbon and alloy steel plate in the U.S.

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Margins in the dumping investigations ranged from 3.62% to 148.02%, and were, in certain instances, based on adverse findings against non-cooperative responding parties. Commerce also determined that critical circumstances exist in three investigations, allowing for collection of duties for a retroactive period of 90 days before the preliminary determination, spanning back to August 16. Commerce also found that South Korea is providing unfair subsidies to its producers of steel plate at a countervailable duty rate of 4.31%. As a result of these final affirmative determinations, Commerce will instruct Customs and Border Protection to collect cash deposits based on these final rates. Read more

The seesaw battle between steelmakers in China and India took a new twist recently with a report in a Chinese newspaper calling the Indian government on its “protectionist” stance on steel.

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The state-run Global Times newspaper said in a report, referring to India’s decision to award its first bullet train project to Japan, that India needed to have a “sober” look vis-a-vis China when it came to solutions for India’s proposed railway network revamp or its entirely new high-speed rail project.

The high-speed “bullet train” project is likely to commence in 2018 on a 315-mile (508-kilometer) route between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. It’s slated to be completed by 2023.

India has been waging a war against cheap steel imports into the country for some time now, with Chinese steel companies high on their bad guy list. The government imposed taxes in various forms not to protect its own steel industry, but to equalize import prices to production costs. Over 80% of the funding for the project is coming from Japanese investments. Read more

I had the pleasure of attending the S&P Global Platts Steel Markets North America conference held recently in Chicago.

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The general outlook at the conference for steel markets in the year ahead was notably optimistic, although each of the initial speakers differed in who and/or what the audience should pay attention to in the coming months and years.

Conference keynote speaker, Herb Black, CEO of American Iron & Metal Company had his eyes on Turkey and its burgeoning scrap market. Timna Tanners, Managing Director of U.S. Metals and Mining at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, encouraged the audience to focus on China, while Beth Ann Bovino, Chief U.S. Economist for S&P Global Ratings, spoke to present macroeconomic conditions with a watchful eye on the current administration and potential post-election policy changes. Read more

The Department of Commerce announced its affirmative final determination in the anti-dumping duty investigation of imports of South Korean ferrovanadium.

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For the purpose of an anti-dumping investigation, dumping occurs when a foreign company sells an imported product in the U.S. at less than its fair value.

Commerce found dumping by mandatory respondent, Korvan Ind. Co., Ltd., at a final margin of 3.22%. Additionally, based on the application of adverse facts available, Commerce found that dumping has occurred by mandatory respondents, Fortune Metallurgical Group Co., Ltd. and Woojin Ind. Co., Ltd., at final margins of 54.69%. Commerce assigned a final dumping margin of 3.22% to all other producers/exporters in Korea.

As a result of the final affirmative determination, Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect cash deposits based on these final rates.

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The petitioners for this investigation are the Vanadium Producers and Reclaimers Association — a Washington DC-based trade group — and its members: AMG Vanadium LLC of Ohio; Bear Metallurgical Company in Pennsylvania; Gulf Chemical & Metallurgical Corporation of Texas; and Evraz Stratcor, Inc. in Arkansas.

The operating cost of rolling cold-rolled coil from hot-rolled coil is around $30-50 per metric ton depending on how efficient the steel mill is. Internal (or external) logistics cost to shift the coil between the HRC mill and a CRC mill could be as much as $40/mt but a single-site mill won’t have that cost.

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Add in capital costs that are amortized over the mill life of up to $15/mt and it is no surprise that the long-term price of CRC has been around $100/mt above the price of HRC.

Right now, spot HRC prices are a minimum of $820/mt while HRC is $620/mt. That is a spread of $200/mt.

That makes CRC one of the most profitable products in the steel industry. Why is that the case?

Spread of CRC over HRC ($ per metric ton)

Source: Steel-Insight

First of all, we need to look at the way that the U.S. steel industry is structured and realize that CRC is a niche. Read more

India produced 8.4 million metric tons of steel in January, registering a growth of 12% against the same period last year, according to data by the World Steel Association. India became one of the top major steel producers in the world, beating China whose production grew by 7.4%.

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The WSA report only props up what the government here has been saying for some time now, that India is making efforts to ramp up domestic steel and to ensure more consumers opt for it rather than other materials such as plastic.

India needs more scrap if it’s to meet its production goals. Source: Alumisource.

At a “Make In Steel” conference in the nation’s capital, New Delhi, Minister of Steel Chaudhary Birender Singh said steel demand grew 3.3% from April to December 2016, and growth was expected to continue in the coming months due to long-term government policies and an increase in infrastructure spending. Clearly, all of this is not mere lip service.

Steel Ministry officials and domestic steelmakers are optimistic that with more infrastructure projects coming up, demand will likely continue to increase.

The WSA predicted steel demand in India will grow at a rate of 5.7% in 2017.

To push demand, the government has used a combination of measures — incentives, imposition of various trade remedial measures such as minimum import prices, anti-dumping and safeguard measures and better quality control.

To increase consumption and production, it also unveiled a draft National Steel Policy 2017, to soon replace the National Steel Policy 2005. The policy aims to increase the domestic steel production capacity to 300 mmt from the current 85 mmt by 2030-31.

Now, as one more step in the process, it has decided to set up of two scrap-based steel plants, one in the west and the other in the north of the country, to boost production capacity. India has relatively few steel scrap-based electric arc furnaces (EAFs) of low capacity compared to similar-sized nations.

Over 40% of scrap available in the four states in northern India and around 67% of the scrap the western state of Gujarat was imported. Steel made out of scrap is expected to be of higher quality and could be used for expanding production of end-use products such as scientific instrument.

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Currently, India imports 6 mmt of scrap annually but will be able to produce 7.5 mmt of scrap by 2025 as supply from end-of-life cars and trucks, a major supply stream, is expected to grow.

Much to the delight of not only its executives and employees but both the global steel sector and even stock markets, the Luxembourg-based steel giant ArcelorMittal has posted its first annual profit in more than five years, registering the biggest jump in earnings in the same period.

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The world’s largest steelmaker by output swung from a $7.9 billion net loss in 2015 to a net profit of $1.8 billion last year. Read more

Our Stainless MMI inched lower in January but it’s already working higher in February as nickel prices rebound.

That Other Ban

In mid-January, Indonesia issued significant new mining rules that will relax its ban on exports of raw nickel ore.

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The revisions to the earlier regulation will allow miners to only export low-grade ore (defined as metal content of 1.7% or less) as long as they express a commitment to build their own smelters within five years and are able to supply domestic smelters with enough low-grade ore to meet at least 30% of the country’s input capacity.

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This distinction between low-grade and high-grade ore (1.7% or more metal content) is important. Lower-grade ore increases the cost base for Chinese nickel pig-iron. In addition, NPI and ferronickel are more energy intensive than the higher grade refined nickel. Therefore, the greater use of lower grade nickel leads to more pollution, an issue that China is currently tackling.

According to a Reuter’s report citing Indonesia’s mining minister, of the 17 mmt of nickel ore produced by Indonesia each year 10 mmt is considered low grade while nickel smelting capacity stands at 16 mmt currently but could grow to 18 mmt this year.

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As its mining minister puts it, under the new rules, Indonesia could export up to 5.2 mmt of nickel ore in 2017. This is less than 9% of what the country used to export prior to the ban. Although this is important information to take into account, Indonesia’s easing will not flood the global market as many feared.

More Shutdowns In The Philippines

On February second, the Philippines ordered the closure of 21 mines, and seven others could be suspended. The nickel mines recently ordered to shut down account for about 50% of the country’s annual output. Prices rose sharply on the news as the mining shutdowns in the Philippines seem likely to be a to greater driver of price movements than the easing of Indonesia’s export ban.

What This Means For Metal Buyers

If we narrow our view to the supply/demand fundamentals of the nickel industry, the picture looks bullish, but rather complex. However, we need to widen our view to the whole industrial metals spectrum, and that picture looks quite bullish. Industrial metals continue to rise on robust demand and shrinking supply. The bullish sentiment across the metal complex, combined with more nickel mine closures should support prices in the mid-term.

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