Turkey’s Imports of Semis Ease as Scrap Price Declines.

As Turkey is by far the largest importer of steel scrap, any changes in domestic demand can have a significant effect on the wider market for this commodity. In line with many other raw materials and steel products, the price of scrap has been declining over the past few years and by August 2015, the price had fallen by 37% in just a year. This decline was not as pronounced as the fall in slab prices, however, as they fell by 44% over the same time frame.

As other steelmaking costs had not fallen to the same degree, we saw that some producers in Turkey, instead of producing the semi-finished products internally, favoured importing slab and billet. These imports came from countries such as China and Brazil where the cost of the predominantly BOS dominated steelmaking had fallen considerably, and slowing internal demand had driven producers in those countries to search for export markets.  As the year progressed further, however, the decline in the price of scrap accelerated and by October, scrap prices had fallen 55% from our reference point in mid-2014, compared to slab prices that declined by 50%.

In the first eleven months of 2014, Turkish imports of semis fluctuated between 291K tonnes and 488K tonnes per month before rising to 597K tonnes in December. As the differential between the price of scrap and semis narrowed during 2015, we can see that Turkey imported increasing quantities of billet and slab, peaking at 841K tonnes in September.  During the last quarter of 2015, however, as the price of scrap went on another decline, Turkey started to ease up on its imports, finishing the year with 504K tonnes in December which was actually below the same month of 2014, the only time that happened during the year.

This pattern of semis imports was mirrored in the imports of scrap. Throughout 2014, Turkey averaged 1.6M tonnes of scrap imports per month but in December this declined to less than 1.3M tonnes. By September 2015, just when the tonnage of semis had reached its peak, the quantity of scrap imported hit its lowest level, down to just over 1M tonnes before rebounding strongly to finish the year at over 1.7M tonnes in December.

At the start of this year, the scrap/semis price differential has narrowed somewhat with both scrap and slabs having fallen by 54% from our benchmark in 2014. Is this enough to encourage Turkish producers to increase their imports of semi-finished products once again at the expense of scrap?  Of course, given its size and ability to move the scrap market, lowering demand for scrap in the country due to falling semis prices will have a knock on effect, further lowering the price of scrap in a race to the bottom.  With many steelmakers, particularly in China, now running at a loss, however, it does seem as though the bulk of the decline in semis prices is probably behind us which would suggest that in the medium term, Turkish steelmakers are likely to return to the scrap market for their raw material requirements.

Turkey’s Imports of Semis Ease as Scrap Price Declines.

Chinese Trade in Coal and Coke

We have covered the trade in Chinese steel and iron ore in considerable detail here in the past but ISSB also monitors the trade in some other products and today we are looking at the Chinese coal and coke trade. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal but the country only became a net importer in 2009.  Since then, Chinese imports of coal increased by over 150% to peak at 327 million tonnes in 2013 with internal production estimated at around 3.7 billion tonnes.  Since 2013, however, it has been a familiar story with reduced industrial demand leading to falling imports, which in 2015 were down 36% from the peak just two years prior, and an over capacity situation which is estimated by Reuters as being an astonishing 2 billion tonnes last year.

China imports most of its coal from Australia and Indonesia and the price of Australian hard coking coal has nearly halved since the end of 2013 to just over $76 per tonne as of the end of last week. The Chinese Government has responded by stopping approvals for new coal mines for three years but given the current huge overcapacity, this is unlikely to make much of a dent on falling prices.  In addition, however, there are plans within China to reduce capacity by some 70 million tonnes internally but again, given the estimated 2 billion tonnes of overcapacity, it is hard to see this having much of an effect either given the predicted fall in industrial demand for the raw material in 2016.

One option for China to use this excess coal being produced is to turn it into coke, subject to coke oven capacity, and in contrast to coal, China is a net exporter of coke and is the largest supplier in the world. Last year Chinese exports increased further, up more than 11% when compared to 2014 and represented close to a nine-fold increase in exports since 2012.   At the start of 2013, the 40% tax on metallurgical coke exports from China was removed, despite the detrimental effect on air quality on production of the material, opening the door for supply to enter the already oversaturated global market with predictable consequences on prices as export prices fell by 47% over the past three years.  The largest markets for Chinese coke are India, Japan and Brazil but as with steel, there is evidence that in some of these countries measures are being taken to protect domestic producers with India initiating anti-dumping procedures against imports of coke from China.

Going forward, it is hard to see any of the government initiatives having much of an effect on the coal producing overcapacity situation in China and as with coal, global demand for coke is weak. Unless the export tax is reinstated or markets are successful with their anti-dumping initiatives, downward pressures are likely to remain on the price of coke as well as coal, with fundamentals which closely mirror those that we have seen in iron ore and steel.

 

Chinese Trade in Coal and Coke