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Black Sea billet trade stagnates over prices

The CIS billet export market has livened up with enquiries this past week, but sales were scarce due to the ongoing mismatch between buyers’ and sellers’ price expectations. Fundamentals are somewhat conflicting and point to the ongoing moderate dynamic with prices moving sideways, Kallanish concludes.

Enquiries are dribbling in from North Africa for relatively small tonnages, with one large lot sold earlier this week by a trader at $432/tonne cfr to Algeria. As Ramadan is in April this year, traders expect enquiries to intensify and more sales to take place at current levels in the next week or two. This will be to secure pre-Ramadan arrivals, which will then possibly rule out North African trade for another month, until March, when buyers will be booking post-Ramadan arrivals.

Buyers in North Africa are now constrained to CIS and Turkish billet, as European material is out of their price bracket. In fact, European billet and rebar prices are considered high enough for several re-rollers and suppliers of billet to make CIS and Turkish billet enquiries, traders note.

Apart from a slight positive influence in the case of possible stronger economic sanctions on Iran, sources do not perceive renewed US-Iran tensions as having an impact on the market. This may not be so for Turkish rebar exporters, however, as some of their key rebar buying markets are at the epicentre of the conflict, with rebar demand already weak.

Turkish mills, therefore, are seeking to turn their fortunes around by trying to book scrap at lower prices, but without success. One billet sale was confirmed to take place last week, amounting to 30,000 tonnes of billet to South America at a base price of around $424-425/t fob, excluding extras.

CIS mills are indicating $415/t fob for their billet, and do not appear to rush to lower the price to the buyers' desired $400-405/t fob. This is stymying trade, but with half of February-casting volumes already sold and feedstock fundamentals firm, sellers' position is understandable, traders note.

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