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Kallanish Kallanish

Knowledge matters Knowledge matters

February, 21st 2020

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JAN 14
15:26

Chinese steel exports dwindle but imports surge

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Chinese steel exports ended 2019 at low levels, the latest Chinese customs data shows. Finished steel imports, meanwhile, jumped to the highest level since January 2011, Kallanish notes.

In December, China exported 4.684 million tonnes of finished steel, down -15.7% year-on-year and up 2.38% month-on-month, according to the General Administration of Customs. On a daily basis, December exports were down another -0.92% m-o-m at just over 151,000 t/day. Over the year, Chinese finished steel exports totalled 64.293mt, down -7.3% y-o-y.

Chinese exports have been subdued as Chinese steel prices have remained firm while global steel prices have been weak this year. This has led to fierce competition from other exporters in the Middle East, India and elsewhere.

Export deals have picked up a little in the last two weeks, meaning there could be better volumes in February-March, at least for flat products. Expectations for strong domestic demand in the first half of 2020 mean export volumes are unlikely to increase significantly. If supply growth continues to exceed demand, however, the second half could see stronger volumes.

China’s finished steel imports, meanwhile, showed a sharp increase. Traders had been booking more semi-finished steel imports for several months but this does not show up in the finished steel data released at the start of the month.

By early November, however, traders were also booking finished steel imports, notably from Korea, Malaysia and Russia. In December, finished steel imports were up 42.3% m-o-m and 47.4% y-o-y at 1.483mt. Over the full year, however, finished steel imports were still down -6.5% y-o-y at 12.304mt. Imports had been hit earlier in the year by China’s weak automotive sector.