US imported and domestic rebar prices held firm Thursday as market participants looked to the scrap market and the potential impact of US trade actions for direction.
The Commerce Department on Wednesday levied a more than 200% preliminary dumping margin on imports of Japanese rebar, but set lower rates for Taiwan and Turkey, the largest exporter to the US.
Imports of rebar from Japan and Taiwan have fallen off since US producers petitioned for the trade case investigation in September, but the lower import duties levied against Turkey on Wednesday were expected to have a limited effect on the market, sources said. Turkey's Habas received a 5.29% preliminary dumping margin, and Icdas received a 7.07% margin. The rate for all other Turkish rebar producers and exporters was 6.2%.
"I don't think it will slow down imports from Turkey, if anything I think we'll see imports [from Turkey] continue at a higher level," a US distributor said. In 2015, the US imported 1.47 million mt of rebar from Turkey, according to US Census Bureau data.
Ahead of Wednesday's announcement, Turkish producers raised import offer to the US by some 10% to account for potential duties. Producers in Turkey spent Thursday reviewing their positions and refrained from giving firm offers, sources said.
Opinions were mixed among traders as to whether Turkish producers would lower prices or keep offers around $500/mt CFR Houston ($460/st CIF).
S&P Global Platts on Thursday maintained its daily US imported rebar assessment at $460-$464/st CIF Houston.
A second US distributor said the outcome in the trade case against Turkey was "disappointing," as lower-priced imports continue to put pressure on domestic pricing.
US mills were waiting to see where scrap settles in March before adjusting pricing, sources said. With a bullish outlook for March, some mill attempts had been heard this week at $30/lt on cut grades and up $40/lt on shredded scrap, but suppliers were not supporting those offers on a widespread basis as of late Wednesday, Platts previously reported.
"So far, all the mills have told me they are waiting to see what scrap does," a US fabricator said, adding it was unclear if the mills would be looking to increase prices at the same level as the increase in scrap, or if they could try to push pricing higher.
Given current demand, domestic mills should not see much resistance to a price increase, the first distributor said.
"I definitely think higher prices can be achieved," he said. "The market has been waiting to find out what's been going on with the trade case, now it's just a matter of where scrap settles."
Platts on Thursday maintained its daily US Southeast rebar assessment at $530-$550/st ex-works.