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Platts China Steel Sentiment Index edges up to 5-month high in September

Melbourne — The outlook for China's steel market edged up slightly in September to a five-month high in anticipation of an uptick in demand during a seasonally stronger period, according to the latest S&P Global Platts China Steel Sentiment Index (CSSI), which showed a headline reading of 26.18 points out of 100 in September.

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The headline CSSI, which measures the outlook for new steel orders over the month, rose by 3.31 points for September from 22.88 in August. A reading above 50 indicates expectations of an increase/expansion and a reading below 50 indicates a decrease/contraction.

The headline CSSI has averaged just 24.28 over January-September, well below the 42.15 averaged over the same period last year when China's steel market was buoyant.

The outlook for new domestic orders in China improved by 3.59 points from August to 28.45 in September. Expectations for flat steel prices eased by 3.77 points from August to 53.03 in September, however that reading remained above the 50 threshold for the second consecutive month.

There is a big change in the outlook for China's crude steel output in September now that environmental restrictions on production in Hebei province have been removed. The measure was up by 10.22 points at 45 in September from 34.78 in August.

The outlook for steel inventories fell by 73.64 points to 17.59 in September, the lowest reading since the index began, as participants expected stronger buying and destocking ahead of the National Day holidays in early October.

The CSSI is based on a survey of around 50 China-based traders and steel mills.

Chinese domestic hot-rolled coil prices averaged Yuan 3,702/mt ($522/mt) in August but softened slightly over September 1-11 to Yuan 3,684/mt, according to Platts data.

Domestic HRC margins reached $32.80/mt Wednesday, the highest level since early July, due to lower raw materials prices. The monthly average margin for August was minus $18.90/mt, according to Platts.

-- Paul Bartholomew, paul.bartholomew@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com