Articles in Category: Imports

aluminum ingot stacked for export

Olegs/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: the Department of Commerce announced the rollout of a new Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis system; meanwhile, in steel, ArcelorMittal announced added capacity in Canada for the production of automotive structural and safety components; and finally, the United States Geological Survey reported mine waste in the eastern Adirondacks could be a source of rare earth element materials.

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DOC announces creation of Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis system

A development for which the U.S. aluminum sector has long been waiting is finally here.

The Department of Commerce announced today the imminent launch of a new Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis (AIM) system. The system will facilitate the DOC’s collection and publication of aluminum import data.

The system is modeled after the system for steel imports, the Steel Import and Monitoring Analysis (SIMA) system.

“AIM represents yet another step forward for the Administration’s America First trade agenda,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said. “The new program will enable Commerce and the public to better detect potential transshipment and circumvention involving aluminum products – helping to ensure that domestic producers can compete on a level playing field.”

The DOC said the Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis system will be available online beginning Jan. 25, 2021.

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There has been quite a bit of analyst chatter about the likely impact of China’s return to the steel scrap market next year.

In 2019, the authorities essentially banned steel scrap imports. The move came, in part, because many of the grades were classified as waste. However, of late the rumor is China will be moving to reclassify ferrous scrap as a recyclable resource and could lift the import ban (probably in Q1 2021).

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Steel scrap imports plunge

According to Platts, China has 184 million tons of EAF steelmaking capacity at the end of 2020. Furthermore, the country will likely have 197 million tons by end of 2021.

The totals are up from 175 million ton at the end of 2019, when scrap imports had plunged to just 180,000 tons due to the ban.

Domestic steel scrap production has been on the rise, generating some 240 million tons in 2019. As such, the 2014-18 average annual imports figure can be seen as minuscule by comparison.

But while they may be small, they are not insignificant.

Normally, imports rise and fall relative to the premium arbitrage of domestic prices over world prices. Currently, domestic steel scrap prices in China are said to be about $60/mt or Yuan 400/mt over Southeast Asian seaborne scrap prices on like-for-like grades (when freight and taxes are included).

Should imports be relaxed, there is, therefore, the potential to suck in considerable imports.

Platts suggests this would not top the record 13.7 million tons imported in 2009. Some, however, disagree, saying it could reach 20 million tons.

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metalworking

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Before we head into the penultimate weekend of 2020, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including: research findings related to organic molecules’ impact on machinability; gold prices; and the arrival of an allocation market for steel-buying organizations, as explained by MetalMiner CEO Lisa Reisman:

Week of Dec. 14-18 (machinability, gold prices and steel allocation market)

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imports

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This morning in metals news: U.S. import prices rose slightly in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the Pilbara Ports Authority reported November shipping data;  and, finally, there is speculation the U.S. could reimpose sanctions on Russian aluminum giant Rusal, Bloomberg reported.

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Import prices rise in November

Import prices picked up by 0.1% in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

Higher fuel prices made imports more expensive last month.

“Prices for import fuel increased 4.3 percent in November following a 0.9-percent decline in October and a 4.7-percent drop in September,” the BLS reported. “Higher prices for both natural gas and petroleum contributed to the November advance.”

Meanwhile, export prices gained 0.6% after rising by 0.2% and 0.6% the previous two months.

Pilbara Ports Authority reports November shipping data

Australia’s Pilbara Ports Authority reported November throughput of 57.4 million tonnes, down 3% year over year.

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import tariff

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The U.S. has agreed to refund “a significant portion, plus accrued interest” on an import tariff for slab imports to Russian steelmaking group Novolipetsk Steel’s U.S. subsidiary, the parent group said.

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U.S. subsidiary of Russian steelmaking group reaches deal on import tariff refund

The refund is the result of a settlement between NLMK USA and the federal government in a dispute over the refund of duties for slab imports.

However, the government did not admit to any improprieties, the group said in a mid-November statement.

Since 2018, steel imports into the United States are subject to duties imposed under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The duties amounted to 25% and 10% on steel and aluminum, respectively, on imports from most countries.

NLMK USA normally sources slab from Novolipetsk Steel’s main plant at Lipetsk, in Russia. The slab is used for rolling at NLMK Indiana, as well as at NLMK Pennsylvania and Sharon Coating.

Costs to produce one metric tonne of steel in the United States are $460-500. Meanwhile, in Russia they are $320-350, industry watchers told MetalMiner.

Case background

NLMK USA originally brought the import tariff lawsuit in February against the government at the United States Court of International Trade. That claim covered 86 exclusions submitted for slab that the steelmaker submitted in 2018.

The U.S. Department of Commerce denied the requests. The department argued other steelmakers in the country claimed they were able to produce adequate supply of slab for rolling.

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steel imports

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This morning in metals news: the American Iron and Steel Association (AISI) reported on November import data, including the month’s finished steel import market share; China’s Baosteel is working on a new project; and Norsk Hydro has signed two MoUs for renewable power projects in Brazil.

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AISI: steel import market share at 18% in November

AISI reported the U.S.’s finished steel import market share in November at 18%, matching the import market share rate for the year.

Import permit applications for the month totaled 1.41 million net tons. The total marked a 17.2% decrease compared to the previous month.

China’s Baosteel starts new project

According to Reuters, China’s Baosteel has started production on a high-grade non-oriented silicon steel project.

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iron ore

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If we think copper, zinc, and even aluminum have performed well this year, none of them are a patch on iron ore.

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Iron ore prices rise

China’s iron ore imports fell for the second straight month in November. Imports dropped by 8.1% from a month earlier, Reuters reported.

However, prices still rose strongly.

China brought in 98.15 million metric tons last month, compared with 106.74 million tons of imports in October. Nonetheless, the November total rose 8.3% from November 2019.

The report went on to say that for the first 11 months of the year, iron ore imports stood at 1.07 billion tons. Meanwhile, full-year imports totaled 1.06 billion tons in 2019.

Imports seem to be constrained due to availability rather than lack of demand. Quite the contrary, prices are continuing to rise.

Spot iron ore hit the highest level since December 2013 last week. The Dalian Commodity Exchange price climbed a further 2.8% to Yuan 928 per metric ton (over $141 per ton). That is a rally of 50% since this time last year. The price is also up 72% since the end Q1 China lockdown crash pushed prices below $80 per ton.

Infrastructure stimulus investment and a strong construction market have supported steel prices. As a result, steel mills have been producing flat out and drawing down port stocks of raw materials like iron ore.

According to another Reuters report, imported iron ore stocked at 45 Chinese ports dipped for the fourth week over Nov. 27 to Dec. 3. Imports fell by 1.6 million tons from a week earlier to about 124.5 million tonnes, mainly due to lower arrivals.

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merger and acquisition

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This morning in metals news: U.S. Steel today announced it will acquire the remaining equity of Big River Steel for $774 million; meanwhile, the U.S. steel sector’s capacity utilization rate for the week ended Dec. 5 reached 71.4%; and, finally, the Aluminum Association recently penned a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross criticizing the Section 232 aluminum exclusion process.

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U.S. Steel to acquire remaining equity of Big River Steel

U.S. Steel announced today it will acquire the remaining equity in Big River Steel for $774 million.

“For months, I’ve said that we can’t get to the future fast enough. Today, I can say the future is now. We are acquiring Big River Steel, the cornerstone of our ‘Best of Both’ strategy,” U.S. Steel President and CEO David B. Burritt said in a release. “With Big River Steel, we can offer customers the high performance, innovative steel products they expect from U. S. Steel’s scientists and application engineers made through a state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable and efficient mini mill process.”

Steel capacity utilization reaches 71.4%

Meanwhile, the U.S. steel sector posted a capacity utilization rate of 71.4% during the week ended Dec. 5, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

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steel imports

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U.S. steel imports totaled 1.4 million metric tons in October, up from 1.1 million metric tons the previous month, the Census Bureau reported.

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U.S. steel imports pick up

Although U.S. steel imports are down for the year, October imports picked up.

U.S. steel imports jumped approximately 27% from the preliminary September total to the preliminary October figure.

For the year through September, the U.S. imported 16.1 million metric tons. Meanwhile, for the same period in 2019, the U.S. imported 20.5 million metric tons.

Rebar, cold-rolled sheets and blooms, billets and slabs pace increase

Per the Census Bureau data, the U.S. saw significant jumps in imports in three categories: rebar; cold-rolled sheets; and blooms, billets and slabs.

From September to October, imports of blooms, billets and slabs jumped from 80,154 metric tons to 233,798 metric tons, an approximately 192% increase.

Rebar imports nearly doubled, jumping from 39,080 metric tons to 76,347 metric tons.

Cold-rolled sheet imports jumped from 67,173 metric tons to 94,863 metric tons, a 41% increase.

On the other hand, imports of sheets and strips, tin plates, and hot-rolled sheets declined from September to October.

OCG down

In U.S. steel imports news relevant to the oil sector, imports of oil country goods (OCG) for the year to date declined.

Imports during the nine-month period totaled 831,459 metric tons. That total marked a 54% year-over-year decline.

However, the oil price has picked up of late. The WTI crude oil price closed Nov. 24 at $44.91 per barrel, up $3.48 per barrel from the previous week, per the Energy Information Administration.

Furthermore, from September to October, imports of OCG rose 126% to 47,526 metric tons.

Oil demand remains depressed amid the pandemic, with many foregoing car trips (or vacations altogether) and a significant percentage of the U.S. workforce transitioning to remote work setups. However, recent announcements regarding the efficacy of potential COVID-19 vaccines could serve as a shot of support to demand for various steel products, including OCG, as Americans become more comfortable with returning to the previously normal rhythms of life.

Of course, when mass rollout for such vaccines will occur is still up in the air.

U.S. steel imports surge from Mexico, Turkey

Viewed through the lens of imports by country, the U.S. saw an increase from Mexico. The U.S. imported 252,348 metric tons of steel from Mexico in October, up 34% from the previous month. While perhaps a niche consideration for the steel market at large, the United States Trade Representative recently announced a preemptive exemption for Mexico from a potential future Section 232 tariff on grain-oriented electrical steel.

Meanwhile, imports from Canada were about flat from September to October.

On the other hand, imports from Taiwan, South Africa and the U.K. declined, per the Census Bureau.

In year to date, increases came from Turkey, Brazil and Singapore. Imports from Turkey jumped from just 5,941 metric tons in September to 61,948 metric tons the following month. For the year to date, U.S. steel imports from Turkey jumped 65% to 387,608 metric tons in the January-September 2020 period.

Meanwhile, U.S. steel imports from Russia declined.

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lithium-ion battery

Olivier Le Moal/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: Norsk Hydro has signed a memorandum of understanding to explore a potential lithium-ion battery business; U.S. import prices fell slightly in October; and Gulf of Mexico oil production fell in August by the largest amount since 2008.

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Norsk Hydro signs MOU to explore potential lithium-ion battery business

Norsk Hydro, Panasonic and Equinor have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the potential for a lithium-ion battery business based in Norway.

“The companies will work together towards summer 2021 to assess the market for lithium-ion batteries in Europe and mature the business case for a green battery business located in Norway,” Norsk Hydro said in a release. “The companies intend that this initiative is based on Panasonic’s leading technology and targets the European market for electric vehicles and other applications.”

U.S. import prices fall in October

Meanwhile, U.S. import prices fell 0.1% in October after gaining 0.2% in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

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