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Reliance Steel saw its profit climb in fourth-quarter 2014 on the back of higher pricing and improved demand across most end-markets. The California-based metals processor logged profit of $92.3 million or $1.18 per share in the quarter, a 49.4% jump from $61.8 million or 79 cents per share registered a year ago.

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Barring one-time items including costs related to antitrust litigation and gains on acquisition and divestments of non-core assets, earnings were $1.01 per share.

 

Scrap steel has been plummeting for most of this year and the past week was no exception. MetalMiner contributor James May explains what could be the reason for the continued freefall.

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The US is a net exporter of ferrous scrap. What that means is that when international prices decline, there is an excess of material available in the US market. Exporters choose to sell to the domestic yards instead and prices therefore slide.

 

Esmark Inc.‘s bid to take over a former U.S. Steel plant in Serbia fell apart this week when the Serbian government announced that it could not come to final terms with the Edgeworth, Pa.-based steel processor and distributor.

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The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said in a statement that officials wanted a guarantee that “Esmark would not spend all the raw materials and just leave Serbia with an explanation that there is no favorable market.”

 

Reuters’ Andy Home writes that China, the engine of global steel production and consumption, was not supposed to have reached the stage of “peaking and flattening” yet.

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But Zhang Guangning, chairman of the China Iron & Steel Association, (CISA) told the Association’s annual conference in January that “China’s steel sector has already entered a period of peaking and flattening out.”

 

As China’s economy enters a “new normal,” the steel industry faces unprecedented challenges, said Zhang Guangning, who was elected chairman of the China Iron & Steel Association last month.

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“China’s steel production has already hit a peak, or to put it another way, it has hit a turning point,” he told the Financial Times.

 

The world’s largest steel maker, ArcelorMittal, reported on Friday a $955 million loss for the fourth quarter, highlighting the difficulty of making money in slumping commodities businesses such as steel and iron ore.

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The company’s large mining operations were hit by the sharp fall in iron ore prices, while its North American steel unit also slowed. The Luxembourg-based steelmaker’s write-off of $621 million on its investment in China Oriental, a Chinese steel business, was another big contributor to the loss.

 

The world’s big three iron ore miners appear to be entering the final phase of a fight to increase market share in China as massive expansions drive more high-cost rivals out of business, Reuters UK reported.

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The global giants have met stubborn resistance after many big Chinese miners kept producing despite weaker iron ore prices, helping push prices far lower than Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Vale SA envisaged when they began to flood the world with ore two years ago.

 

It’s been another flat week for steel prices on the MMI. Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine AG made news this week by talking about a new process to fuse strips of aluminum with steel.

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Deutsche Bank is still confident in the future performance of steel company stocks despite the falling London Metal Exchange prices.

 

Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine AG‘s foreign expansion plans, focused on the US automotive market, will not be changed by the weak oil price or the euro, its chief executive told Reuters on Tuesday.

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Voestalpine, which sells steel and steel-based products to the automotive, railway and engineering industries, among others, has targeted the energy sector as one of its key growth areas and until recently had benefited from the US shale boom.

 

Analysts at Deutsche Bank recently updated their outlook on the steel industry now that most steel companies have released fourth quarter earnings. Deutsche Bank lowered its average price targets by 12% due to plunging steel spot prices, but reiterated its buy ratings for three big names in the space.

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Deutsche Bank stress tested its model for a full-year HRC price of $550 per short ton ($25 below its forecast) and found that the average downside in expected EBITDA for the companies it covers is about 19%.