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The Kallanish Scrap & Iron Ore Markets webinar was held on Wednesday 17th June at 13:00 BST.
You can download the slidedeck that accompanied this webinar here.
We received many more questions during the webinar that we had time to answer. The Kallanish Editorial team have read all the questions and provided answers.
Q: Chinese iron ore import prices have shot up for Australian fines after the Brazilian supply crunch. When do you see the Brazilian supply easing and do you think that the ease in supply is equally able to bring prices south of $100/tonne again in near term?
A: As things stand, Brazilian supply is already recovering. Unless there are new announcements, Brazilian supply should be running at higher levels in the coming weeks, rather than months. The uncertainty lies around whether there will be unexpected further disruptions due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Without another dramatic change in dynamics, higher supply should be enough to bring prices under $100/t again.
Q: Is China still prohibiting ferrous scrap imports and it is a total ban? Why are the authorities doing this? Are Chinese mills being forced to import billet and/or ore instead of scrap, and is this part of the reason why ore prices recently firmed, against consensus predictions?
A: The ban on most waste exports, including ferrous scrap, is still in place. Imports can be licenced, but licence issuance has fallen dramatically to a few thousand tonnes/year. Yes, this is increasing costs because local supply is not sufficient. As we noted in the China Scrap Market Report 2019, after a brief surplus in 2017 the domestic scrap market is likely to remain in deficit until around 2025, and so banning imports increases costs, especially for EAFs. This is key to the demand for billet and iron ore and hence has driven prices higher.
Q: What would be the scenarios should the Chinese open the scrap imports?
A: If China fully allows scrap imports and demand remains as it is, Chinese steelmakers could aim to further boost production by maximising scrap use. That could mean a decline in demand for the import of steel products and a sudden increase in demand for seaborne scrap. In 2009 China imported 13.7 million tonnes of scrap so the potential to disrupt scrap markets is large. We would expect to see ex-China EAF steelmaking margins vanish, driving overseas steel markets back into relative parity with China markets and hence shutting down the opportunity for steel imports to China.
Q: Why is the domestic iron ore supply not picking up? Does this relate to what MySteel is suggesting that the increase in domestic production of pellets is locking up supply?
A: The main reason domestic supply has not picked up is that the sector has been reformed dramatically over recent years. Previously, there were a very large number of mines at marginal costs which would start or stop production depending on cost. These have largely been shut down for safety and environmental reasons. An increase in domestic production of pellets can only account for a limited volume of ore tied up. It may have impact at the margins but the big picture remains that there is not enough operable capacity to increase supply dramatically.
Q: What probability do you put on China loosening scrap import restrictions, and when might this occur?
A: Chinese policy making is a black box so it is difficult to say. What we can say is that this was initially a niche issue. CAMU does not carry a huge amount of weight in the halls of power. Now, however, more powerful players are lobbying alongside them. That includes CISA and the major state-owned steelmakers. As that lobbying gains momentum, easing restrictions becomes more likely. We would not be surprised if import restrictions are eased in 2021.
Q: China and Australia had tension over Covid19 and iron ore shipments were affected. What is the feeling from the Chinese government? When do you think the conflict will be over?
A: China and Australia will always have some competing interests and some shared interests and the relationship will always be a bumpy one. For iron ore, however, there is an underlying shared interest. China cannot source enough iron ore without Australia and Australia relies on commodity exports for its national budget. The relationship is not as tense as during the Rio Tinto/Chinalco bust up and even then, markets essentially were set not by politics but supply and demand. Chinese has a very appropriate word for this: 麻烦 (mafan). The political tension is troublesome, and annoying for those involved, but its impact on prices is small.
Q: What is the max iron ore price 62% for this year?
A: China’s demand spurt has reached record highs but has little further room to increase (see the latest China Steel Intelligence for more details). Any risk is therefore most likely from the supply side. If there are further serious supply disruptions then all bets are off. But, unless there is some dramatic news on supply, it is unlikely prices will return to $110/t, and they may struggle even to return to this year’s high of $105.45/dmt cfr Qingdao (KORE62% Fe on 16 June).
Q: Do you think scrap demand will also be strong in the Far East? Also, will billet demand be strong in July in the Far East?
A: We don’t think that scrap demand will rebound strongly in ASEAN in July. Rebar markets are weak and rebar prices cannot lift. There is too much uncertainty over a second wave of infections and concerns that regional governments lack the financing to pull through and resuscitate battered economies. Construction projects, especially in the private sector, could be put on hold or not materialise. Government infrastructure projects are expected to proceed but there will be priority on more pressing issues including healthcare and food provision in the poorer countries in SE Asia.
Billet import demand has been sluggish because of lockdowns in SE Asia. Inventories have piled up during the period because of arrivals of billet and, at the same time, re-rollers stopped normal production. Importers could book, but only if they can secure low-priced material.
The problem the region faces is that China has been importing billet in large quantities which have driven regional billet prices up.
Q: How would you define the current dynamics in the finished long segment supporting the ferrous scrap purchases in the near term?
A1: Demand for construction longs is not expected to strengthen in the regional countries in ASEAN in the near term. The regional economies will go into recession for the year 2020. But if it is generally perceived that we have gone through the worst in the second quarter, the economies should be improving from that quarter onwards.
A2: We are expecting Turkish domestic long steel demand will be the driving factor in Turkey’s scrap purchases in the near future. Following the Turkish government’s new incentives for house and auto buyers, we have seen a significant increase in Turkish domestic demand. Turkey is one of the few countries along with Vietnam and China where growth is foreseen in 2020. Turkish Steel Producers Association expects Turkish steel production and domestic demand to increase 3% and 7-10% respectively in 2020.
WorldSteel expects global steel demand to contract by 6.4% in 2020. On the other hand, protectionist measures are foreseen to increase as a result of this contraction.
As a result, we are expecting capacity utilization rates to remain lower in 2020 compared to previous years which will most probably cause a surplus in scrap supply. (Japanese mills have already announced a production cut of approximately 20 million mt.)
Demand for construction longs is not expected to strengthen in the regional countries in ASEAN in the near term. The regional economies will go into recession for the year 2020. But it is generally perceived that we have gone through the worst in the second quarter; the economies should be improving from now on.
Q: How will the second wave of the coronavirus affect steel demand?
A: There is the feeling that no ASEAN country can afford the economic cost of going into another complete lockdown. But the threat of reduced money in the economy, bankruptcies, reduced bank lending, and loss of livelihoods will dent business confidence and depress steel demand.
Q: What are your ideas about the impact of the reviewed Safe Guard Measures for rebars in Europe?
A: The main issue for rebar importers will be that it seems that in the safeguard review all country-specific quotas will be allocated quarterly. This change will remove the possibility for importers to make use of the entire country specific quotas (for example for Turkish rebar) during the first week of the new quota period.
Last year in July, for example, the full amount of quotas was used in just a few days. The European Commission justifies the change by saying it will avoid overcrowding of imports in a specific week of the year. Nevertheless, it is expected the new review will become effective from the beginning of July, despite the fact that many importers might have already ordered volumes of rebar based on the previous rules. Effectively, rebar imports into Europe will be limited somewhat by the new review and European rebar prices should benefit from this change.
Q: Do you see the use of EAF relative to BF increasing in Turkey in the short to medium term?
A: As EAFs are more flexible in terms of increasing and decreasing production, we have seen halts and capacity cuts mostly in EAFs. Turkey’s capacity utilisation dropped to 50% levels during the pandemic in April. Now, following the recovery seen in domestic demand, the average capacity utilisation rate stands at approximately 55-60%. However, with the expected production increase, it is set to reach 65-70% on average in 2020.
EAF capacity utilisation rates will be determinant in the changes in Turkish steel production. The scrap consumption rate of electric arc furnaces stands at 93% in Turkey.
Join the Kallanish Scrap & Iron Ore Markets webinar on Wednesday 17th June, 13:00 BST to hear from these great speakers live, and have the opportunity to put your questions and comments directly to them.
Please remember that you have to register in advance for the webinar and when you do, you will recieve a confirmation email with a unique joining link. If more than one person from your organisation wants to join please make sure that they register individually as your access link will not work for other people.
Tomas is the Managing Editor Asia for Kallanish and produces editorial content on the region, with a focus on China, as well as overseeing Kallanish's operations in East Asia. He is based in Shanghai, where he has lived and worked for the last six years. Tomas speaks Mandarin as well as English and Spanish. He has also spent three years in Beijing studying and working. Previously, Tomas worked at Steel Business Briefing, where he joined shortly after graduating with a masters degree in Asian politics from SOAS in London.
Burcak brings 15 years experience in covering global long products and scrap pricing. She is responsible for the Kallanish daily scrap assessment in Turkey, as well as European shredded and US domestic and export pricing . She is based in Istanbul, prior to joining Kallanish she worked in SteelOrbis as director of Research.
Having graduated from university in England's steel city of Sheffield, Adam was destined to end up in a career related to the steel industry. He has worked at Kallanish since 2014 as an editor for The Middle East and Turkey, as well as CIS and Eastern Europe, contributing his experience gained from five years in Dubai of the vibrant and fast-growing Middle Eastern and Turkish markets. Adam regularly attends events in the Middle East and Europe, moderating and speaking at some of them. He was previously steel editor at Platts in Dubai and before that Central and Eastern European reporter for Steel Business Briefing in London. Adam prides himself on providing friendly, informative and accurate journalism. He is currently based in Frankfurt and speaks fluent Polish and intermediate German.
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