Davis Index: Market Intelligence for the Global Metals and Recycled Materials Markets

Japan’s semi-finished steel exports rose by 88pc in March to 4.2mn mt from a year ago amid dwindling domestic steel demand. Ingots and semi-finished steel exports have consistently increased over recent months, with February exports at 4.2mn mt and January at 3.3mn mt, according to Japan Iron & Steel Federation (JISF) data. Pig iron exports surged by 446pc to 24,187mt in March from 4,431mt during the same month in 2019, and by 56pc from 15,552mt in February.  


Japan’s Iron and Steel exports in March (mt)
 Mar-20Mar-19Change YoYFebruaryChange MoM
Pig Iron24,1874,431446%15,55256%
Ingots & semifinished4,20,3052,23,67388%4,18,2720.5%
Steel products23,32,79618,53,61626%18,23,30528%
Specialty steel6,47,6505,99,4968%6,46,3360.2%
Total iron & steel34,90,22127,70,72526%29,77,19917%


The growth in semi-finished and pig iron exports can be attributed to production cuts announced by major Japanese steelmakers amid weak domestic steel demand. The Japanese economy is struggling with weak domestic and global auto demand, which directly affected steel consumption. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic—and, by extension, containment measures—has stalled both construction and manufacturing in Japan.


Steel product exports in March rose by 26pc to 2.33mn mt from 1.85mn mt in February, marking a third consecutive month of Japan’s ordinary steel exports rising. Hot-rolled strips, heavy plates, galvanised sheet, and cold-rolled strips were the leading steel product exports. 


Japan’s top steel exports in March (mt)
 Mar-20Mar-19Change YoYFebruaryChange MoM
Heavy plate2,82,8522,25,16826%1,90,82348%
Hot-rolled wide strip11,67,1547,54,96255%9,30,65225%
Cold-rolled wide strip1,97,8001,92,5773%1,69,57617%
Galvanized sheet2,28,2952,05,15511%1,97,37816%
Stainless steel88,83384,5095%74,08120%
Specalty steel products5,58,8175,14,9879%5,72,255-2%


Year-to-date, Japan’s steel product exports reached 6mn mt, while specialty steel exports totaled 1.83mn mt, of which stainless steel shipments comprised 2,27,650mt. Pig iron exports amounted to 54,663mt, while ingot and semi-finished exports totaled 1.16mn mt during the period. Total iron and steel exports were 9.3mn mt. 

Japan’s iron and steel exports by country

South Korea remined the top destination for Japanese iron and steel exports in March, growing by 11pc to 5.6mn mt, with hot-rolled wide strip exports increasing by 37pc to 2.3mn mt a year earlier. Ordinary steel product exports rose by 12pc to 4mn mt. 


Thailand was the second-largest importer of Japanese and iron and steel products, which rose by 11pc in March. Ordinary steel product exports dipped by 2pc to 2.4mn mt, and hot-rolled wide strip shipments declined by 10pc to 1.1mn mt. However, semi-finished exported surged by 280pc to 1.1mn mt in March.


Iron and steel exports to Taiwan increased by 42pc in March 2020 from a year earlier, with semi-finished exports growing by 35pc to 1.1mn mt, while exports to China rose by 6pc, with specialty steel growing by 7pc to 1.1mn mt  in March. Exports to the US decreased by 30pc.


Japan’s Imports

Japan’s ferroalloy imports declined by 13pc to 1.1mn mt in March, while imported steel products fell by 8pc to 3.8mn mt. Total iron and steel imports also declined by 15pc to 6.3mn mt in March. Japan’s imports of hot-rolled wide strips dropped by 10pc to 1.2mn mt, while galvanised sheet imports grew by 7pc.

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