Japan Steelmakers Jump as Analysts Flag Better Export Prospects

Japanese steelmakers surged after Credit Suisse Group AG upgraded the nation’s second-biggest mill, JFE Holdings Inc., due to its exposure to a resurgent Asian market.

Steel prices in China, which accounts for about half of global production, are recovering from a steep slump on output cuts and signs that the nation’s economy is stabilizing, with reinforcement bar used in construction climbing by almost a third in 2016 after five years of losses. Japan is the world’s No. 2 producer and JFE is the most export dependent of its peers, according to Credit Suisse.

The stock climbed as much as 8 percent and traded 7 percent higher at 1,792.50 yen as of 12:59 p.m. in Tokyo, topped only by Kobe Steel Ltd. as the biggest gainer on the benchmark Nikkei 225. No. 3 mill Kobe rose as much as 10 percent, while Japan’s largest producer, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., gained as much as 6 percent.

Signs of improvement in emerging economies and the outlook for supply cuts in China could help Asia’s steel markets swiftly recover, Shinya Yamada, Tokyo-based analyst for Credit Suisse, said in research dated April 13. Nomura Securities Co. issued a report on the same day saying that Japan’s steel export margins will improve in the July to September quarter, aided by a recovery in overseas markets.

JFE “will see the greatest benefits from improvement to export spreads,” Yamada said. The bank upgraded its rating on the producer to outperform from neutral, and lifted its target price to 1,900 yen from 1,700 yen.

JFE’s export ratio was 46 percent for the financial year ended March 2016, compared with Nippon Steel’s 45 percent and Kobe Steel’s 32 percent, according Credit Suisse’s report. While the yen’s recent gains make Japanese exports less competitive, Yamada said he sees “little risk of downside” for JFE’s shares up to about 100 yen to the dollar. The Japanese currency last traded around 109 yen.

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