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China cracks down on steel-dumping

China is imposing anti-dumping duties for certain stainless steel products from Japan, Indonesia, the European Union (EU), and South Korea. They plan to apply tariffs between 18.1 and 103.1 percent to stainless steel hot-rolled plates and billets.

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Mid-2018 Global Steel Outlook

Overall global steel output is headed in a positive direction, despite recent controversy surrounding steel tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration. Over the last year, raw-steel production has steadily increased. This is after nearly two years of below-average demand. The World Steel Association predicts that steel demand for manufacturing and construction purposes will continue to increase throughout the rest of 2018 and 2019. This often correlates with overall global economic prosperity. Typically, positive economic performance leads to innovation and new construction, hence the rising steel demand.

Data suggests that May 2018 saw the largest jump of the year. In that month, global output increased by 6.6% compared to May of 2017. From April to May alone, global steel production jumped by 4.7 percent. While China and the European Union are responsible for the largest portion of these jumps, other countries are sure to see significant boosts as well.

India: A Steel Behemoth

Just recently, Anglo-Australian mining company BHP Billiton announced that it predicts Indian steel demand will double by 2025. Allegedly, the government’s goal is to produce 300 million tonnes of steel by 2030. If current production were to truly double by 2025, that means it would reach 170 metric tonnes.

Some economists are suggesting that India’s 2030 goal may be a bit of a reach. However, they still say it’s no doubt that the construction and infrastructural industries have a demand.

The recent trade war that has been spurred on by the Trump Administration’s tariffs has global economies scrambling for new strategies and steel consumers. There has been an inevitable period of rockiness in light of these recent events. Nonetheless, Huw McKay, BHP Billiton Vice President of Analysis and Economics, says there is enough global steel demand to absorb the newly produced steel.

EU Responds to Steel Tariffs 

Since the U.S. has imposed levies on imported steel and aluminum, the EU must prepare for a steel/aluminum import surge into the bloc from other countries. Consequently, they are searching for solutions to curb some of these imports. On Thursday, the EU voted to back measures preventing an overwhelming influx of steel and aluminum. As a result, they have put a quota in place. They will still welcome steel imports, with some exceptions. To prevent a flood of steel imports into the EU market, the EU will place tariffs on imports exceeding the determined quota.

Excessive steel imports into the EU market could damage the EU steel industry’s own prosperity. The EU has also imposed its own levies on numerous U.S. imports, including jeans, bourbon, and motor bikes. Canada is also imposing “retaliatory tariffs” in response to the new U.S. policy.

While the impacts of the U.S. steel tariffs on the domestic market are still being assessed, certain industries (such as the automotive industry) will likely be impacted. In some steel-oriented towns across the country, the tariffs have brought relief. Many view it as a way to boost the American steel industry and encourage domestic steel production. As time continues on, consumers and steel experts are hopeful that growth in the steel industry will too.

 

Impacts of Recent Tariffs on the American Steel Industry

President Donald Trump is planning to institute broad tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. These import taxes could result in lower profits for all companies that use these metals in their manufacturing processes, leading to higher prices for consumers, or a combination thereof. While the President’s plan calls for a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, with no exemptions for any country, analysts say Trump’s proposal is sparse on details.

The Trump plan is designed to increase profits for U.S. metal manufacturers. However, analysts fear this could cause U.S. consumers of steel and aluminum to lose money, as U.S. metal makers would have increased pricing power with imported metals becoming more expensive. Additionally, aluminum costs are almost guaranteed to rise as virtually all of that metal is imported.

Scott Wine, CEO of Polaris Industries Inc., a manufacturer of snowmobiles and ATVs, says his company spends over $300 million per year on steel and aluminum. Wine says the tariffs would raise his company’s costs an estimated one percent, which he feels is manageable. However, Wine says Polaris would have to find a way to deal with the possible price increases from their domestic metal suppliers.

U.S. construction companies and automakers could be among the most impacted by the tariffs. In 2017, the U.S. construction industry accounted for approximately 40 percent of U.S. metal consumption and the auto sector accounted for just over 25 percent. However, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the effect of the tariffs would be trivial, pointing out that the one ton of steel used to make an average vehicle would have a minute impact on overall vehicle costs.

Sales or Profits?

Based on research conducted by consulting firm Ducker Worldwide, the typical American-made vehicle weighs roughly 1.9 tons, or 3,835 pounds. This breaks down to 54 percent steel and 11 percent aluminum. However, producing parts leads to waste, which raises costs further.

Overall, Ducker estimates U.S. carmakers consume 2,925 pounds of steel and 526 pounds of aluminum to build an average car. If these numbers bear out, automakers will need to offset the higher cost by raising prices, which could negatively impact sales, or accepting a lower profit margin. However, Joseph Amaturo, an analyst with Buckingham Research Group, states the Trump Administration’s new tariffs could add $300 per vehicle, which works out to roughly one percent, the same numbers cited by Wine and Secretary Ross.

The Broad Market

The new tariffs could affect everything produced in the U.S. that contains any steel or aluminum, or a percentage thereof. Many products contain metal alloys, which contain a percentage of steel and/or aluminum. With alloys being more expensive to manufacture in the first place, tariffs could have a substantial impact on everything from tractors to tuna fish cans.

JP Morgan analysts say the proposed tariffs could put a dent in both Caterpillar and John Deere tractor sales by as much as nine percent. Edward Jones analysts say the new import taxes would affect food prices as well. Aluminum tariffs would have the potential to raise costs about seven percent for breweries, especially those whose largest market is the U.S.

Overall Earnings

According to stock market analysts, tariffs are unlikely to significantly impact Corporate America. Keith Parker, an analyst for United Bank of Scotland, with offices throughout the U.S., says the impact on total corporate earnings is driven by the overall economy. This is confirmed by large companies failing to adjust their earnings estimates following the President’s announcement. Scott Wren, equity strategist at Wells Fargo, says there will be repercussion from the tariffs, but it is not going to be the end-of-the-world gloom and doom some are predicting.