China's finished steel exports in June dropped 15.9% month on month and 30.3% year on year to 3.70 million mt, hitting the lowest level since February 2013, customs data released on July 14 showed.
Some market sources expected the steel exports to stay low in July and August, on a preference for local sales.
Finished steel imports into China in June increased 46.7% month on month and 98.7% year on year to 1.878 million mt due to strong local demand, making the imports highest since October 2009.
Steel exports over January-June dropped 16.5% year on year to 28.704 million mt, while steel imports grew 26.1% year on year to 7.343 million mt.
Net steel exports over the first six months of 2020 largely retreated 25.1% year on year to 21.361 million mt.
Some market participants said export orders had remained poor in July, as the Chinese steel prices, which had been driven up again by a strong domestic market, were uncompetitive in Asian market. The current orders were mainly for September shipments.
Some Chinese steel mills on July 13 offered hot rolled coil of SS400 grade at $460-$500/mt FOB, while Indian SAE HRC was offered at $450/mt CFR Vietnam and South Korean SAE HRC was offered at $470/mt CFR Vietnam.
Meanwhile, market sources said the strong Chinese domestic market had kept China open for imported steel, adding that the country's steel imports will remain on high levels at least through the third quarter.
Some sources expect overseas demand would gradually recover in the fourth quarter, which might end the surge in steel imports.
However, they added that the increase in steel imports had been negligible compared with China's steel production, and thus the impact on China's domestic market would be limited.
China's domestic market will continue to be supported by abundant liquidity and strong demand from the infrastructure and property sector in the second half of 2020, leaving little room for its steel exports to rebound, S&P Global Platts analysis showed.
Source: S&P Platts