Feb 13

Los problemas de China para afrontar la sobrecapacidad de acero

China y sobrecapacidad de acero

El otro día leí una noticia sobre las dificultades que está teniendo China para cumplir con sus propios planes de ajuste de sobrecapacidad de acero. A pesar de ser declarada ilegal, una acería de horno de inducción reinició su actividad, desafiando así la suspensión del gobierno (Kallanish).

La noticia en sí misma no me sorprendió: no es la primera y evidencia, una vez más, las complicaciones que tiene el país para acometer el proceso de reestructuración industrial.

El problema actual de la sobrecapacidad de acero

Uno de los principales desafíos que afronta la industria siderúrgica es la distorsión que provoca en el comercio internacional la sobrecapacidad industrial en ciertas economías de no mercado, como es el caso de China.

No profundizaré  en este tema,  que ya  hemos tratado en múltiples ocasiones. Grosso modo, el desarrollo de su sector se materializó a base de “planes estratégicos”, lo que ha redundado en un exceso de sobrecapacidad.

Para hacernos una idea, en 2018 el PIB de China supuso el 19% del mundial, similar al de su población, mientras que el peso de su industria fue del 28%. Sin embargo, la cuota del país asiático en la producción mundial de acero superó el 51% en el mismo año. Claramente, el sector está sobredimensionado, después de haber registrado un crecimiento del 622% desde 2000 (11% crecimiento anual compuesto).

2020-02 GR sobrecapacidad China

El Peso de China en el mundo: PIB y población, producción de acero e industria Notas: VA – Valor Añadido (dólares corrientes), PIB PPA – Producto Interior Bruto por Paridad del Poder Adquisitivo (dólares internacionales constantes de 2011). Fuente: Banco Mundial (2019).

Los intentos de reestructuración de China

El problema de sobrecapacidad no es algo nuevo para las autoridades: llevan desde 2003 ejecutando distintos programas de ajuste, como el actual de 2016, en el que se enmarca la clausura de los hornos de inducción (ejecutada en 2017).

Desgraciadamente, el resultado no está siendo el esperado, como certifican las noticias, porque son medidas discrecionales que se olvidan de las fuerzas que operan en el mercado.

¿Alguna alternativa?

Como apuntan distintos estudios internacionales, las políticas más efectivas para resolver el problema de sobrecapacidad son aquellas basadas en el mercado ya que, precisamente, es uno de los mecanismos más poderosos para señalizar el comportamiento de los agentes económicos.

Por ofreceros un ejemplo, la Cámara de Comercio de la Unión Europea en China publicó en 2016 una batería de recomendaciones con el objetivo de nivelar las reglas del juego, muchas de ellas basadas en el funcionamiento del mercado:

  1. Seguir aplicando reformas en el sistema fiscal y financiero, mejorando el sistema de asignación del ahorro y reduciendo el peso de las instituciones públicas para evitar los problemas de riesgo moral entre las empresas.
  2. Fortalecer el proceso de privatización, restando peso a las empresas públicas, fundamentalmente en los sectores que padecen de sobrecapacidad.
  3. Eliminar la fijación estatal de los precios de las materias primas, especialmente en la energía y electricidad.
  4. Incentivar la transparencia, el acceso y la calidad de la información mediante asociaciones empresariales independientes del gobierno, lo que mejoraría la toma de decisiones.

Entiendo que muchas de estas medidas son ambiciosas y complicadas de aplicar, especialmente si consideramos la contribución económica del sector siderúrgico a la sociedad y el impacto social subyacente. Para amortiguarlo,  las autoridades podrían servirse de Fondos de Restructuración Sectorial (reorientando las capacidades de los profesionales) u otras formas de políticas activas de empleo.

La otra vía

China tiene experiencia en aplicar cambios copernicanos, como demuestra la senda marcada por las “Cuatro Modernizaciones”, políticas que le han permitido convertirse en la mayor economía del mundo. Solo necesita afrontar su problema de sobrecapacidad de acero de otra manera: “da igual que el gato sea blanco o negro, lo importante es que cace ratones”.

Feb 04

Low demand, inconsistent supply keep bauxite market weak

Prices for two grades of bauxite have ticked downward, as has the price for white fused alumina, but brown fused alumina remained stable, with the market said to be mostly flat on limited activity.

The markets for both bauxite and alumina continued to be weak in early March on slow demand flows in Europe and other consuming areas, while the evolution of the supply situation in China remained unclear.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of calcined bauxite, 85%, at $400-420 per tonne fob China on Thursday March 7, against $410-430 per tonne previously.

The corresponding price assessment for calcined bauxite, 86%, was $420-440 per tonne fob China on the same day, down from $430-450 per tonne earlier.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for calcined bauxite, 87%, remained unchanged on Thursday at $450-470 per tonne fob China, while the price ofcalcined bauxite, 88%, remained at $470-490 per tonne fob China. The prices for 87% and 88% material dropped by $20-30 per tonne in the previous assessments on February 21.

Market participants spoke of widespread weakness across the market at the moment, especially on the demand side.

The majority of consumers had contracted their supplies in advance for the first part of the year, and many were covered for most of the first half. The slowdown in European industrial indicators, visible since the third and fourth quarters of 2018, also played a part in damping market activity.

As a result, the industry was not taken by surprise by the current weakness.

A number of sources noted, however, that the slowdown has gone further than expected.

“We all knew that this year was going to be slower than 2018, so it’s not necessarily a surprise,” one importer said. “What is notable, though, is that the drop in inquiries has been more significant than we forecast.”

A producer added: “There may have been some excess of optimism on the part of customers at the end of last year. Business has slowed more than expected.”

Ene 27

European car sales down again in January but revival expected

The number of new passenger car registrations in the EU decreased by 4.62% year-on-year in January 2019, making it the fifth consecutive month of decline, the European Automotive Manufacturers Assn (ACEA) said on Friday February 15.

New car sales in Europe totaled 1,195,665 units in January 2019, compared with 1,253,596 vehicles sold in the corresponding month of 2018.

“The European passenger car market saw a slow start to the year, posting a 4.6% decline compared with one year ago,” ACEA said. “Nevertheless, with nearly 1.2 million units registered in total, this still represents the second-highest January volume on record since 2009.”

Car production was affected by the introduction of emissions testing under the new Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) on September 1 last year, in anticipation of which there had been an exceptional surge in registrations over the summer.

As a result, demand for new cars fell in most EU countries in the closing months of 2018 and this continued in January. This negative trend, however, was expected to be short-lived and the market should be back to normal in the first quarter, according to market sources.

In the meantime, the European Commission (EC) has imposed definitive safeguard measures on a list of imported steel products, in the form of tariff rates and a range of quotas that are partly annual and country-specific and partly quarterly and global. These came into effect on February 2.

The EC split the hot-dipped galvanized (HDG) coil product category into two sub-categories, 4a and 4b, with material in the latter group being used mainly by the automotive sector.

Market sources believed that this change was made in response to a request from European carmakers, which voiced their concerns that the quotas proposed in January would injure the automotive industry.

But the quotas set for HDG were likely to result in lower import volumes of the material for both the automotive sector and other end-users, according to market sources. Buyers will probably have to source more material from domestic suppliers, which will allow European mills to increase their domestic HDG prices

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for domestic HDG in Northern Europe was unchanged at €610-630 ($688-711) per tonne ex-works on February 13.

The assessment reflected the “achievable” price in the market, while mills in the region were targeting higher prices in light of the definitive decision in the safeguard case.

On average, about 900 kg of steel is used in each car, according to the World Steel Association (Worldsteel). weakened recently because buyers had already restocked, sources said.

Ene 20

Chinese magnesia exports up in 2018, prices firm on mining restrictions

China’s exports of all grades of magnesia were up in 2018 on an annual basis, and export prices kept firm on mining restrictions and strict environmental inspections.

China exported 747,073 tonnes of caustic calcined magnesia (CCM) in 2018, according to official Chinese data – up by 14.31% from 653,528 tonnes in 2017 in response to growing overseas demand.

Export values totaled $132.75 million, an increase of 36.64% year on year from $$97.15 million in 2017, while the average CCM export price rose by 19.46% to $178 per tonne. Prices were supported by mining restrictions and the strict environmental inspections in China which caused a reduction in mined raw materials.

The five largest importers of Chinese CCM in 2018 were Japan, the United States, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Indonesia.

CCM prices have remained firm throughout 2018 and in early 2019 on tight supply as China’s
government continues to restrict the use of explosives in mining. Fastmarkets assessed the magnesia, calcined, 90-92% MgO, fob China price at $180-220 per tonne on Tuesday  anuary 29, a level it has held since March 2018.

Fused magnesia exports

China exported 523,921 tonnes of fused magnesia (FM) in 2018, up 22.33% from 428,277 tonnes in 2017. Export revenue was $453.81 billion in 2018, up 87.10% from $242.55 million in 2017, customs data showed.

The five principal destinations for exports were the US, the Netherlands, Japan, Turkey and South Korea.

Fastmarkets IM’s price of fused magnesia, basis 97% MgO, Ca:Si 2:1, lump, fob China, was $1,200- 1,300 per tonne on Tuesday. This is up from $745-800 per tonne in July 2017 but down from $1,600- 1,800 per tonne at the start of 2018.

dead burned magnesia exports

Chinese dead burned magnesia (DBM) exports totaled 989,226 tonnes in 2018, up 11.88% from 884,203 tonnes in 2017.

Export revenue was $368.74 billion in 2018, up 85.07% year on year from $199.24 million, according to customs data.

The US, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea and India were the five main export  destinations.

The latest spot price for DBM basis 97.5% MgO, lump, fob China was $1,050-1,250 per tonne on Tuesday compared with $365-395 per tonne in July 2017 and $630-740 per tonne at the start of 2018.

Ene 13

China’s Refractory Production Decreased in Jan- Summary

Extracts of various articles from Refractory Window

Year to Date to Jan 2019, Production in 000’ Tons

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