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CHINA DATA: November steel exports hit 13-month low

China’s finished steel exports in November fell for the fifth straight to 4.361 million mt, reaching a 13-month low, China’s customs data showed Dec. 7.

However, steel exports are expected to rebound in the first quarter of 2022 compared with Q4 of 2021, helped by no further tightening of export policies in the near term, market participants told S&P Global Platts.

November exports were down 3% on the month and were 0.9% below from the year-ago levels.

Over January-November, data showed China’s finished steel exports still rose 26.7%, or 13.053 million mt, on the year, to 61.875 million mt.

Growth of steel exports in 2021 was mainly due to a lower base in 2020, as China was in lockdown during much of the first half, and in the second half, most overseas markets also went into lockdown.

China’s Politburo, the country’s top planning body, in a meeting Dec. 6 pledged to stabilize economic growth and make this a top priority for 2022, supporting this goal with more proactive fiscal and monetary policies.

Some market sources said “supply side reform” was not mentioned during the meeting, implying any tougher steel output cuts or further restrictions of steel exports were unlikely in the near term.

Some of the sources said China’s steel production was almost certain to rebound in Q1 2022, after steel mills finished output cut requirements for 2021. In tandem, steel export volumes were expected to trend upward in Q1 as well.

Some steel mills postponed steel exports from November-December to January in order to facilitate steel output cuts in the last two months of 2021, the sources added.

Market expectations of weaker domestic steel demand in Q1 of 2022, caused by slowing property investments, could also encouraged steel exports, sources said.

However, some Chinese exporters told Platts that the country’s overall steel exports in 2022 were unlikely to exceed 2021 levels, partly because China may continue capping its steel production, while tapering overseas demand may also weigh on shipments.

China’s finished steel imports in November were at 1.424 million mt, up 26% on the month, but still 23% down on the year, according to customs data.

Imports over January-November fell 30% on the year, to 13.267 million mt, mostly due to a higher base in 2020.

China’s net finished steel exports were 2.937 million mt in November, up 15% on the year. Net exports over January-November were up 62% on the year, at 48.608 million mt, customs data showed.
Source: Platts

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