After eight rounds of rises in China’s domestic coke prices since mid-April, the ninth round of a Yuan 120/t ($18.7/t) increment proposed by coke producers in North and East China has faced resistance from some domestic steel mills, with some end-user in Hebei of North China even requesting for a cut by the same degree, citing the domestic steel price slumps recently.
Some Tangshan-based steel plants in Hebei have already taken the action, announcing a coke procurement price cut by Yuan 120/t since May 24, while steel plants in East China, also a key steelmaking region in China, have decided to stand on the sidelines, closely monitoring the market situation, said a Shanghai-based market watcher.
Despite the seesawing, by May 24, China’s national composite coke price under Mysteel’s assessment still touched its highest since September 8 2008, or up Yuan 116.2/t on week to Yuan 2,792.6/t including the 13% VAT, while in contrast, the country’s national price of the HRB400E 20mm dia rebar dived Yuan 661/t on week to 5,165/t including the 13% VAT, or have lost all the gains over May 6-12.
Some Chinese coke producers have shown their hard stance against the request for lower coke prices by the domestic steel mills, especially when supply has remained tight, market sources shared. “Our company’s coke supply has been unable to meet demand,” a coking company in North China’s Shanxi stated in a notice to its customers that has been circulated in the market on May 24, confirming that all its customers had agreed on the Yuan 120/t increment.
China’s soaring coke price has also been backed by the high coking coal prices, a Shanghai-based analyst pointed out, as “China’s domestic coking coal supply has stayed tight, and coking coal imports either by water, or by truck from Mongolia, have hovered low,” he said.
On May 24, China’s national composite coking coal price rose another Yuan 25.5/t on week to Yuan 1,361.9/t including the 13% VAT, hitting a new high since Mysteel commenced the price assessment on April 5 2018.
To those that are seeking coke price cuts, the Shanxi coke company, thus, would simply suspend supplies, and a total increment of Yuan 220/t will be imposed on them should they change their mind later, according to the company.
“Coke supply tightness has eased to some extent, as coke producers in Shanxi have been ramping up their output since early May after the completion of the environmental protection checks,” a second Shanghai-based analyst said, but coke stocks at some of the domestic steel mills have persisted low, he noted. Nevertheless, some steel mills would rather wait a while longer to see where the market goes, according to him.
As of May 20, total coke inventories at China’s 110 Chinese steel plants under Mysteel’s weekly survey approached its four-month low, reaching 4.2 million tonnes or being sufficient for 12.9 days of use.
Source: Sean Xie, Hongmei Li