China’s Steel Exports Set to Contract for First Year Since 2009

  • Producers sending more to domestic market as demand climbs
  • Rebar prices have risen almost 90% this year on stimulus

China’s steel exports are poised to shrink for the first year since 2009, defying earlier forecasts, as mills in the world’s biggest producer sell more at home amid a surge in prices.

Outbound shipments fell 1 percent to 100.7 million metric tons in the first 11 months, customs data showed Thursday. That means there’s little chance of exports catching last year’s record 112.4 million tons in the full 12 months. Sales in November slumped 15 percent to 8.1 million tons from a year earlier.

Shipments from China are sliding as mills divert sales to the more lucrative domestic market, where stimulus measures have fueled demand. Steel reinforcement bar surged 15 percent in November in Shanghai, after a similar jump in October. Prices are up 87 percent this year as the government increases spending on infrastructure and boosts credit. That’s benefiting the “old economy,” dominated by industries including steel and manufacturing.

With margins climbing, mills are buying more iron ore to turn into steel. Imports rebounded to 92 million tons in November, the third-highest on record. Total purchases rose 9.2 percent to 935 million tons from a year ago.