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Chinese steel price surge not sustainable

Add Time:2016-04-26 23:22:00 Clicks:
The rapid increase in Chinese steel prices so far this year is not sustainable, as it is largely due to a seasonal pick-up in construction and elevated speculation in the steel futures market, says Fitch Ratings. Fitch expects supply of steel to increase as rising prices lead to capacity resumption, but without a sustainable rise in demand. This will put significant pressure on steel prices in the near term.

Chinese steel product prices have increased over 60% year to date. For instance, prices for hot-rolled steel - one of the most widely traded products - increased to CNY 3,229 per tonne from CNY 1,994 per tonne at the beginning of 2016. Fitch believes the price surge is mostly driven by a seasonal pick-up in fixed-asset investment activity from a low base in the first two months of 2016. This is exacerbated by increased speculation in the steel futures market, driven by liquidity in the financial system.

On the demand side, fixed-asset investment was up 10.7% yoy in 1Q16. Of this, infrastructure was up 19.6% and property 6.2%. Infrastructure investment growth was in line with Fitch's expectations and the usual spurt following the Chinese New Year holidays. However, the pick-up in property investment came earlier than expected. Fitch did not anticipate an increase until 2H16, from a low base in the previous year. Overall, Fitch does not foresee a strong increase in steel demand during 2016 and expects overall fixed-asset investment growth to remain at around 10%, a similar level to 2015.

On the supply side, average daily crude steel production was lower in January and February 2016, at around 2.02 million tonnes, compared to 2.21 million tonnes in 2015. Production fell significantly at the end of 2015 due to low steel prices. The total capacity suspended (capacity that is partially in operation or mostly non-operating) in 2015 amounted to around 60 million tonnes, of which only an estimated 15 million tonnes to 17 million tonnes was permanently shut-down and eliminated from the market. With prices now surging, many of the suspended plants have resumed production. This was partially reflected in March 2016 production figures, where daily crude steel production rose to 2.28 million tonnes, up 12.9% compared to January and February 2016. Fitch expects production to increase further in April, as the suspended furnaces are fired up. This, together with weak demand growth for steel in 2016, is likely to soon result in declining steel prices.
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