The merchant seaborne pig iron market continued to strengthen last week, with demand awakening in all major importing regions, pushing up offers and transaction prices, Kallanish notes.

Italian demand remained in the vanguard for the second week, with traders concluding further bookings for the country and overall Mediterranean region. Demand is strong enough to have facilitated a large – up to 60,000-tonne – sale from the breakaway eastern Ukrainian Donetsk Republic, back in the market after a long absence. This occurred at a price higher than mainstream suppliers'. Traders say the sale was concluded at $530/tonne fob Black Sea by several traders, for resale in the Mediterranean.

A Russian producer achieved $510-515/t fob for three lots sold to traders totalling around 30,000t for December loading/November-production material, grossing at around $560/t cfr – the level of offers two weeks ago. And the Ukrainian supplier, having been offering at $570-580/t cfr Italy, $10/t up on-week, was heard to have exited the market for reassessment.

Turkish demand is also stirring, buoyed by the ongoing rise in scrap prices. Although no sales were concluded last week, some pig iron acquired by traders is known to be destined for the country's steelmakers.

Demand perked up from the Americas, but the US remained out of the market for CIS spot material. However, there is more interest in CIS spot cargoes as scrap indications are set to rise in the US also. But another large Brazilian cargo was sold at around $500/t fob, according to traders, for January shipment. Traders note that US buyers' willingness to pay around $560/t cfr Nola for high-phosphorous Brazilian material would peg CIS prices at $570-580/t cfr Nola, still below current indications of $590-600/t cfr, or $520-530/t fob.

This is up on the previous week's sale to Mexico at around $515/t fob, due to rising demand and feedstock prices. China's return to pig iron buying, albeit tentative, may serve as a needed encouragement for US buyers to book CIS material, traders add.

Indeed, China is back, with a booking of a large 60,000t Brazilian cargo early last week, at $575/t cfr, netting back to around $505-510/t fob Brazil. India has also resumed its offers to China, quoting $550-560/t fob, up by around $20/t on previous offers, in line with rising costs. This level is still not workable for CIS suppliers, but considering the fast changing pace of China's import market sentiment, acceptable levels could rise very quickly, traders say.