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US tariffs reaction: Asian steel markets roiled, aluminum muted

The US on Friday will begin implementing a 25% tariff on steel importsand a 10% tariff on aluminum imports following an investigation by theDepartment of Commerce into the effect of these imports on US nationalsecurity.

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Below is a summary of key points relating to Asian steel and aluminum markets:

* Re-rolling grade hot-rolled coil steel was assessed by S&P Global Platts at $590/mt FOB China, down $18/mt on the day.

* Rebar steel was assessed at $536/mt FOB China, down $19/mt on the day.

* The Japanese aluminum import premium was assessed at $109-$111/mt plus LME cash CIF Japan on Friday, unchanged on the day. Prices were stable as market participants were awaiting news on country exemptions, particularly on "swing smelters" that may export to the US, the EU and Asia.

* South Korea and Australia are the only jurisdictions in the Asia Pacific to be exempt from the tariffs.

* Japan's foreign ministry condemned the US tariffs, and its trade ministrysaid it would continue to argue that its steel and aluminum don't impact USsecurity, but rather have been contributing to its industrial growth andemployment.

* China's commerce ministry is seeking feedback on a proposal to impose retaliatory tariffs on US imports worth some $3 billion, involving a duty of 15% on seamless steel pipe and denatured ethanol, and 25% on aluminum scrap.

STEEL

* Panic selling ensued in physical steel markets and Chinese futures markets on fears of escalation to a broader trade war.

* Steel end-users in Southeast Asia and India said they expect to see a reduction in supply from South Korea going forward but that the shortfall could be replaced by supply from others like Japan and China.

* Japanese steel industry participants said it was "regrettable" that Japan has not been exempted. Japanese steel in the US is used mainly by subsidiaries of Japanese companies or partners of Japanese mills in the energy and infrastructure sectors. As the Japanese steel imported by the US tends to be high-end and less easily replaceable, buyers in the US would likely continue to buy imports and incur the 25% tariffs.

* The tariffs are likely to spell the end of Vietnamese pipe and galvanized steel exports to the US, a source at a producer in southern Vietnam said.

* The Indian Steel Association said it was "not appropriate" for the country to be treated like others that have a surplus of steel. It said the tariffs would encourage steel from those countries to be diverted to "vibrant consumption centers like India and distort our domestic markets considerably."

* While at least one major Indian mill confirmed it was working towards petitioning the government to review the minimum price at which antidumping duty would kick in on steel imports, with the view of raising it in reflection of current markets, one end-user told S&P Global Platts that India's steel ministry may not entertain the request because domestic steel prices are already at a high level.

ALUMINUM

* Japanese aluminum market participants said the US tariffs had no direct impact as Japan hardly exports to the US. But they raised concerns about how tariff exemptions would change the global trade flows and affect prices.

* Australia's being granted an exemption may boost its aluminum exports to the US via term contracts, thereby tightening Australian supply to Asia. Australia exported about 1.3 million mt of aluminum in 2017, with the US typically accounting for a small share, comprising under 1% last year.

* Some Japanese buyers are in talks with international traders for long-term contracts from H2 2018 to 2020, two international traders said.

* Market participants are seeking more clarity on the planned 25% import tariff on aluminum scrap, as well as how it may affect China's export licensing system for secondary aluminum ingot, where US scrap is used as feedstock. Aluminum ingot prices might be given a lift should ADC12 producers switch to primary aluminum as raw material.

FERROUS SCRAP

* Although not directly impacted by the tariffs, US scrap prices have been on the rise, and may continue to increase if US demand increases as a result of the measures.

* Asian market participants have been turned off by high US scrap offers for now, and are seeking alternative supply.

* If the glut in steel arising from the US being removed as a buyer causes steel prices to fall, then Asian mills may not be able to afford expensive scrap, and could pressure its prices down.