Mark Latham Commodity Equity Intelligence Service

Wednesday 6th May 2015
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Houthi missiles hit Saudi border town; airforce to retaliate

Yemen's Houthi fighters fired mortar and rockets at a Saudi Arabian border town on Tuesday for the first time since a Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign against them in late March, the coalition's spokesman said.

The projectiles struck a girls' school and a hospital in Najran, which is only three km (two miles) from Yemen's border, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said, prompting authorities to close down all schools in the area. There were no immediate details of any casualties.

The attack followed Monday's statement by Riyadh that it was considering a ceasefire to allow humanitarian relief and a call by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in exile in Saudi Arabia, for talks among Yemen's political factions.

"They were mortars and Katyushas fired randomly at a residential district. Unfortunately they hit a girls' school, they hit a hospital and they hit some houses," Asseri said in a phone interview.

"We will not let this action pass without reaction. The air force and other components of the coalition are taking care of the source of the attack," he added. He said more details on the number and type of projectiles fired, and whether they caused any injuries, would be released later on Tuesday.
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BHP spin-off South32 sees M&A opportunities

Newly formed mining and metals group South32 is open to acquisitions once it breaks from BHP Billiton , its CEO-elect Graham Kerr said on Wednesday.

BHP shareholders are expected to approve the spin-off, which includes some of the global miner's smaller assets, at meetings in Perth and London on Wednesday, paving the way toward a listing on May 18.

Named after the 32nd parallel south line of latitude that links its business centres in Perth and Johannesburg, South32 will produce alumina, aluminium, coal, manganese, nickel, silver, lead and zinc from mines and smelters in Australia, Brazil, Colombia, South Africa and Mozambique.

Those assets, long overshadowed by BHP's much larger iron ore, petroleum, copper and coal businesses, generated underlying earnings of $446 million on revenue of $8.3 billion last year.

"If you compare them across to Anglo, Glencore, I think you'd find our assets absolutely stack up beautifully," Kerr said referring to bigger rivals Anglo American Plc and Glencore Plc.

The new company will have the added advantage of carrying just $674 million in net debt.

"We're not over-geared, we're not over-leveraged. We don't have that problem that a lot of our peers will in the industry," Kerr told reporters ahead of the vote.

He said the company would consider acquisitions of any commodity, other than gold, where South32 could add value.

"If we do go into the M&A space it will be opportunistic and it will be only where we see value, and we'd have to sell that story very strongly to our shareholders."

He played down the prospects of chasing any of the coal assets that companies such as Vale and Anglo American are trying to sell right now.

"From our perspective, it's not the most value-accretive way we can see ourselves using our people, time or resources at the moment."

Forecasts on how much South32 will be valued at have dropped to between $5 billion and $10 billion since the spin-off was announced last year, as prices for its main products, including aluminium and manganese, have slumped.

South32 will be the world's top manganese producer and Kerr said if the company thought it could boost prices by cutting output it would consider doing so - in contrast to BHP'spolicy of producing at full tilt as long as it is profitable.
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Oil and Gas

'No one can set the price of oil — it's up to Allah'

Oil cartel OPEC has lost control over the price of oil?

Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali Al-Naimi, however, does not think that Saudi Arabia or OPEC can really control oil prices.

"No one can set the price of oil — it's up to Allah," he said Tuesday in an interview with CNBC.

Saudi Arabia and OPEC, the 12-member oil cartel of which Saudi Arabia is the most influential member, has insisted on maintaining its oil production targets despite the recent decline in prices.

Read more:
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Halt to Libya's Zueitina oil port, linked fields cuts output more

All crude flows to Libya's Zueitina port have stopped after protesters demanding jobs blocked a pipeline, forcing the closure of several eastern oilfields, oil officials said on Tuesday.

The closure should lower oil output to as low as 400,000 barrels a day, according to estimates based on previous production figures.

"The protesters closed the pipeline to the port," Mohamed El Harari, spokesman for state oil firm NOC, said. He said that several oilfields in eastern Libya would have to close.

"This will have a big impact on oil production," he said, without giving a figure.

A port official said the security situation at the terminal was normal, adding that the port would technically stay open.

Libyan oil ports and oilfields regularly have to shut down due to protesters seizing them or armed groups fighting for control of the facilities.

The protesters were complaining they had not been hired by the state as promised by a previous oil minister, an engineer told Reuters.

Zueitina was one of the few Libyan ports still exporting oil as the largest have closed due to fighting or blocked oilfields connected to them, part of turmoil gripping the North African country four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

Near the main eastern city of Benghazi, it has closed several times since 2011 due to protesters demanding jobs or management changes at state oil firms.
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Alfa, Harbour Energy offer to buy Pacific Rubiales for C$6.50/shr

Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp said Mexican conglomerate Alfa Sab de CV and Harbour Energy Ltd have offered C$6.50 per share, valuing the oil and gas company at about C$2.05 billon ($2.08 billion).

The offer represents a premium of 35 percent to Pacific Rubiales' closing price on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Alfa and Harbour Energy have agreed to acquire Pacific Rubiales for C$6 billion ($4.97 billion), including debt.

Toronto-based Pacific Rubiales is the largest independent oil and gas producer in Latin America and its shares are also listed in Colombia.

Pacific Rubiales constituted a special committee, which has engaged an independent financial adviser to deliver a formal valuation, it said.

Alfa, which already owns an 18.95 percent stake in Pacific Rubiales, has businesses in oil and gas, branded foods, aluminum auto components, petrochemicals, information technology and telecommunications services.

Harbour Energy is a joint venture between Asian commodity trader Noble Group Ltd and U.S. private-equity firm EIG Global Energy Partners.
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Brazil regulator says former Petrobras board misled investors

Brazil's securities industry regulator accused the former board of state-run oil producer Petrobras of setting a fuel pricing policy that misguided investors and hurt the company.

The former board, chaired for years by then-Finance Minister Guido Mantega, approved a $221 billion, 2014-2018 investment program with specific debt targets but "chose to run a pricing policy that made it unlikely for those goals to be met," the watchdog, known as CVM, said in a report posted on Tuesday on its website.

Citations by the CVM can result in fines and restrictions on participating in financial market activities or serving as an officer of a public company.

The decision comes as Petrobras faces a number of class action lawsuits in U.S. courts by investors who accuse the company of misleading statements and failing to disclose corruption practices. Petrobras, worth nearly $300 billion in 2008, is now worth $63 billion despite finding large offshore oil resources.

As part of a government strategy to curb inflation, Petrobras for years kept domestic fuel prices below international levels. The subsidies caused about 60 billion reais ($19 billion) in refining losses for Petrobras, which was forced to buy oil at market prices but sell fuels at a loss.

That helped inflate the company's debt to $106 billion, making Petrobras the world's most-indebted and least-profitable major oil company.

According to Paulo Roberto Costa, whose testimony helped uncover the contract fixing, bribery and political kick-back scandal at Petrobras, the refining losses have hurt the company's finances more than the corruption.
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U.S. Oil Market Update- Blame Canada!

Oil inventories continue to surge, but U.S. production has flatlined for weeks—even months.

I mean really—look at these simple facts that have been staring the Market in the face for months:

Year-to-date (YTD) production in 2015 in the U.S. is only 160,000 bopd (barrels of oil per day) above December levels—multiply that by 7 days a week to get 1.12 million barrels a week.
Demand in the U.S. is up by A LOT more—depending on which analysts/firm you want to believe—jU.S.t under 800,000 bopd. Refineries are running at record high throughputs jU.S.t to keep up (92.3% now vs. 5-yr average of 87.8%)!

Yet U.S. oil inventories continue to climb—by a stunning 6.54 million barrels a week so far this year—almost 300% over the typical December-May 1.71 million barrels per week. So U.S. production YTD only accounts for 17% of this. What gives?

This huge growth in inventories has caused some high profile analysts to call for $20 oil. The idea of oil storage becoming full in the U.S. caused a second big downleg in March in WTI prices—set in Cushing OK—to a low of $42/barrel.

The reason behind this seeming paradox? When you look at the data, the creators of South Park got it right - we should really 'Blame Canada!'

Two new pipelines recently debottleneck crude flows from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in a 13.99% increase (408,000 bopd) in U.S. crude oil imports from Canada in December (2.86 million additional barrels per week) that has largely been maintained. When you contrast that fact to the US oil inventory build in the first chart below—well, that's almost all you need to know.

The vast majority of Canadian oil exports is heavy oil from the oilsands. While shale production—light oil—begins to stall and fade, oilsands production will increase every year for at least the next five years. Growing production and heavy discounts (pun intended) will keep U.S. refiners processing all the Canadian heavy oil—called Western Canada Select, or WCS—they can.

Even worse, crude oil imports are increasing as East and West coast refiners increase utilization, requiring them to consume additional seaborne crude (from Saudi Arabia and other places) in order to maintain their crude input blend slate: As U.S. refinery utilization increased from 89% to 92% over the past four weeks, total U.S. crude oil imports have averaged 7.56 million bopd, well above the YTD average of 7.26 million bopd and the March average of 7.25 million bopd.

Unless U.S. shale production falls dramatically (and soon), the U.S. crude inventory situation could get very ugly this summer as 1-3 million weekly builds continue - just as investors have written off full inventories as a risk factor!
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Anadarko not in talks to sell Mozambique assets -CEO

Anadarko Petroleum Corp is not in talks to sell its multibillion-dollar stake in Mozambique's gas reserves and instead is working toward a final investment decision on the planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) project there, the company said on Tuesday.

"As it relates to Mozambique, we're not in discussions with anybody," Al Walker, Anadarko's chief executive officer, said in response to a question on the company's earnings call. "We've never hired a banker to run a process."

Anadarko, which has a 26.5 percent stake in the Area 1 license in the Rovuma Basin offshore Mozambique, is gathering the needed agreements and approvals, and a final funding decision is expected later this year or into next year, the company said.
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Canadian crude exports see first drop in four months in February: NEB

Exports of Canadian crude oil declined by a modest 57,000 b/d in February to average 3.046 million b/d, data released late Monday by the National Energy Board showed.

The drop stemmed entirely from a sharp decline in light crude exports, down 89,000 b/d from January's record-setting levels to 938,000 b/d.

Light Canadian crude oil exports have proven somewhat more variable than heavier grades, falling six times in the past 12 months.

In contrast, heavy crude exports resumed their steady rise, increasing by 32,000 b/d to a new record-high of 2.107 million b/d, surpassing last September's average of 2.095 million b/d.

February's dip nonetheless left total exports above 3 million b/d for just the third time in history, and marked a 325,000 b/d increase from the same time last year. Heavy crudes accounted for 275,000 b/d of that growth, but light crudes also increased 49,000 b/d from last February.
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New left-wing premier of Canada's Alberta says will partner with oil industry

The new premier-elect of Alberta said on Wednesday that her left-leaning party will be a "good partner" to the energy sector, moving to assuage the fears of the Canadian province's powerful oil industry who fear higher costs and opposition to pipelines.

Rachel Notley, who promised to review oversight of the oil and gas sector during the campaign, also said Canada needed a national approach to address environmental issues.

After four decades in power, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative dynasty was brought down Tuesday night by its most unlikely conqueror.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley — whose party held only four seats in the legislature before the election call — will become Alberta’s 17th premier as her party swept to power in the heartland of Canadian conservatism.

The NDP were on track to win 53 seats to defeat the PCs, the party of Alberta icons Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein that was first elected in 1971 and which had, before Tuesday, won 12 straight elections with a majority.

“Well my friends, I don’t know, I think we might have made a little bit of history tonight,” Notley told a cheering crowd in Edmonton.

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Noble Energy boosts 2015 production forecast

Oil and natural gas producer Noble Energy Inc boosted its 2015 production forecast on Tuesday, citing cost cuts and technical improvements after reporting a better-than-expected adjusted profit.

It was the latest sign from the energy industry that deep budget cuts announced in the first quarter combined with new well techniques and other technology were beginning to yield results.

Noble boosted the bottom end of its production forecast for the year, and now expects to produce 300,000 to 315,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d). Noble had forecast 295,000 to 315,000 boe/d for the year.

Noble reported a net loss of $22 million, or 6 cents per share, in the first quarter, compared with a profit of $200 million, or 55 cents per share, a year earlier.

Factoring in hedging losses and one-time items, the company earned 3 cents per share. By that measure, analysts expected earnings of 2 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Production volumes rose 11 percent to 318,000 boe/d.
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Pioneer Natural Resources Swings to Loss

Pioneer Natural Resources Co. swung to a loss, as lower oil prices have reduced the company’s drilling activity.

The results come a day after Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn criticizedPioneer and others in the fracking sector, citing low oil prices, environmental concerns and the industry’s high capital expenditures.

Pioneer Natural said Tuesday that it continues to forecast 10% production growth this year, but its second-quarter production outlook fell short of analyst expectations, according to SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Neal Dingmann.

Sales volumes averaged 194,000 barrels oil equivalent per day (boed), up 17 percent from the 2014 first quarter.

The stock, down about 5% over the past two trading days, slid 0.5% in after-hours trading.

For the quarter ended March 31, the company reported a loss of $78 million, or 52 cents a share, compared with a profit of $123 million, or 85 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding derivatives and other items, Pioneer posted a loss of three cents a share.

Revenue fell to $868 million from $944 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters projected earnings of eight cents a share on revenue of $751 million.

In addition to the sharp price declines throughout the energy sector, the oil and gas company also dealt with down time at its Spraberry/Wolfcamp operations in early January because of severe winter weather.

Still, Pioneer said it continues to deliver strong well results and said cost-cutting has contributed to improved margins.

The company said last year that it planned to sell its Eagle Ford Shale midstream business. Pioneer said it expects a sale to take place in May, which will strengthen the company’s balance sheet.

Citing lower prices, the company said in February that it would reduce some of its horizontal drilling activity and said it would shut down vertical drilling in the Spraberry/Wolfcamp area by the end of the month.

Pioneer’s 2015 capital budget of $1.85 billion is a 45% reduction from last year’s capital spending for continuing operations.
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Halcon Resources reports first-quarter loss, misses expectations

Halcon Resources Corp. on Tuesday reported a loss of $587.6 million in its first quarter.

The Houston-based company said it had a loss of $1.43 per share. Losses, adjusted for non-recurring costs, came to 4 cents per share.

The results did not meet Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for a loss of 1 cent per share.

The independent energy company posted revenue of $136.2 million in the period, also falling short of Street forecasts. Seven analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $174.1 million.
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Alternative Energy

Vestas surprises with strong quarter, higher forecasts

Denmark's Vestas posted strong first-quarter operating profits and raised 2015 forecasts by more than expected after record orders, sending shares in the world's largest wind turbine maker higher.

Vestas said it now expected a minimum 7.5 billion euros of revenues this year, up from a previous forecast of at least 6.5 billion euros, with an operating margin of a least 8.5 percent, up from a minimum of 7.0 percent previously.

While investors and analysts had expected higher forecasts after the company's unprecedented order intake they were still taken aback by the extent of the upgrades.

The company said two-thirds of the increase in its sales forecast was due to the unexpectedly high level of orders while a third was thanks to the U.S. dollar, which continues to be strong against European currencies.

Vestas' notoriously volatile shares jumped as much as 6.5 percent and were up nearly 4 percent at 327 crowns by 0930 GMT.

Orders in the first quarter amounted to 1,750 megawatts (MW) compared to 6,500 MW for the full year in 2014.

"It's very early in the year and I hadn't expected for them to hike guidance so much," said Alm Brand analyst Michael Friis Jorgensen.

"It's not a one off. We have already started strongly in the second quarter and there are a lot of deals in the pipeline with framework agreements," he said, referring to longer-term deals.

Vestas, which made a profit in 2014 after a protracted period of losses, profit downgrades, job losses and cost cuts, said it would now have free cash flow of at least 600 million euros, up from a previous forecast of 400 million euros.

It said operating profit before one-off items amounted to 79 million euros ($89 million) in the first quarter, up from 40 million euros a year ago. Analysts polled by Reuters had on average expected a 19 percent rise to 47.7 million euros.

Vestas Chief Executive Anders Runevad said the strong results stemmed from a 29 percent rise in deliveries of turbines, especially in the United States, from a year earlier and noted that orders during the quarter came from 20 countries.

Vestas last week received one of its single largest orders yet, from a division of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway for a 400 MW farm in Nebraska.
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SolarCity installations top view, sales costs soar

SolarCity Corp, said on Tuesday first-quarter solar installations were higher than expected, despite a particularly snowy winter in many of its key East Coast markets.

The company, which is backed by Tesla Motors Inc founder Elon Musk, reported first-quarter installations of 153 megawatts, above its forecast of 145 MW. In the same period last year, it installed 82 MW of projects. California was the company's largest market.

SolarCity, which loses money because it spends aggressively on expanding its fast-growing solar installation business, reported a quarterly loss attributable to common shareholders of $21.5 million, or 22 cents per share, compared with $24 million, or 26 cents per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $67.5 million, but sales and marketing expenses soared to $86.7 million from $46.9 million.

SolarCity has grown rapidly thanks to a business model that allows homeowners to spread payments for solar panels over 20 years, avoiding a hefty one-time payment of $20,000 to $30,000. It and other installers have also benefited from an 80 percent drop in the price of solar panels since 2008 and generous state and federal incentives for renewable power.

SolarCity thinks the value of is energy contracts is a better way to assess its financial position than revenue or cash flows. The company said payments from energy contract customers over the remaining life of those contracts rose by $1.2 billion in the first quarter as it added 28,000 new customers.

In the second quarter, SolarCity expects to install 180 MW of solar systems. It forecasts it will install between 920 MW and 1,000 MW for the full year.
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Base Metals

Second protester killed in clashes over Southern Copper Peru copper project

A man protesting Southern Copper Corp's $1.4 billion Tia Maria project in Peru was killed in clashes with police on Tuesday, the second death in two weeks as government talks with opponents remain thwarted.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez said authorities were investigating how the protester was killed and two others wounded in Peru's southern region of Arequipa.

Tia Maria has the potential to add 120,000 tonnes of copper to Nasdaq-listed Southern Copper's annual supply, but the project has been stalled since three people died in similar rallies in 2011. Opponents say they fear the project will pollute surrounding agricultural valleys.

Helar Valencia, one of four local mayors calling for Tia Maria's cancellation, said the death of another protester further eroded trust in national authorities.

"This is going to anger people even more," Valencia said. "If before only some were against Tia Maria, now I think it's the whole valley."

Perez, who said he had ordered police not to use lethal weapons, replaced local law enforcement chiefs after another protester died from a bullet wound April 22.

Southern Copper said last week that the protests might delay the project's 2017 start date and that progress hinged on talks between opponents and the government of President Ollanta Humala, who supports Tia Maria.

Valencia said talks broke down more than two weeks ago and had not resumed since.

Construction on Tia Maria was poised to start when the protests broke out more than 40 days ago.

Southern Copper, controlled by Grupo Mexico, received an environmental permit for Tia Maria last year after it agreed to build a desalinization plant to ease pressure on local water supplies.
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Steel, Iron Ore and Coal

Coal Markets May Just Have Been Thrown A Lifeline

There have been rumours the last few months. And last week we got confirmation of a major shift underway in one of the world's biggest bulk commodities.

That's thermal coal. Where it looks as if the world's largest supplier -- Indonesia -- is on the verge of a collapse in output.

Reuters quoted Pandu Sjahrir, the chairman of the Indonesian Coal Mining Association, as confirming that the country's coal producers are now cutting back output in a major way. With Sjahrir saying that overall Indonesian production could drop to between 350 million and 400 million tons for 2015.

That confirms previous announcements from Indonesia's government that a major production cut is in the works this year. And suggests that the scale of the drop could be one of the largest the coal market has ever seen from this critical exporting nation.

Last year, total Indonesian coal production came in at 458 million tons. Meaning that a fall to the lower end of the range quoted by the Coal Mining Association would imply a 24% reduction in output.

Such a drop looks all but assured, according to chairman Sjahrar, who noted that companies have stopped trying to expand production in order to keep cash flow high -- with producers now almost completely focused on making sure they have "enough cash on hand".
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China to expand coal ban to suburbs

China will expand its bans on coal burning to include suburban areas as well as city centers in efforts to tackle air pollution, the top energy agency said on Tuesday.

Detailing its clean coal action plan 2015-2020, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said it would promote centralized heating and power supply by natural gas and renewables, replacing scattered heat and power engines fueled by low quality coal.

The world's biggest coal consumer will ban sale and burning of high-ash and high-sulphur coal in the worst affected regions including city clusters surrounding Beijing.

Beijing ordered a ban last year against coal burning in its six central districts from 2020.

Under the action plan, coal-fired industrial boilers will all shift to burn natural gas or clean coal by 2020 in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei city clusters, Pearl River delta and Yangtze River delta area, NEA said.

China has around 600,000 industrial boilers fueled by coal, most of them are in residential areas in northern China.

The government will offer subsidies for clean fuels, it said, without giving details.

In an earlier action plan released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China aimed to cut coal consumption by over 80 million tonnes by 2017 and more than 160 million tonnes by 2020.
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ArcelorMittal S.Africa to cut Q2 output on slack demand

ArcelorMittal's South African unit will cut second-quarter production by 6 percent at its Newcastle plant due to slack demand from its domestic market, it said on Tuesday.

"Production to be reduced by a further 6 percent (year on year) to 4,300 tons per day to reduce the steel stock on hand," the firm said in a presentation delivered at the plant in South Africa's eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

The plant is ArcelorMittal's third-largest in South Africa by output.

The unit of the world's top steelmaker said earlier this year that while it saw international prices staying depressed, it planned to produce at full capacity and reduce costs.

CEO Paul O'Flaherty said on Tuesday South Africa was "under heavy attack" from cheap imports and the slow domestic market could only recover if the government implemented its infrastructure plans.

President Jacob Zuma's government announced plans three years ago to invest $95 billion in roads, ports and railways before 2015, but many initiatives have stalled.
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China April steel sector PMI rebounds on month

The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for the Chinese steel sector rose to an eight-month high of 48.2 in April, up from 43 in March, showed data from the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP) on May 4.

However, it was the 12th consecutive month below the 50-point threshold separating growth from contraction, indicating persisting sluggishness in the sector.

The new order sub-index rose to 49.4 in April from March’s 45.5, the third consecutive monthly increase and the highest since August 2014, mainly due to improving demand as industrial activities recovered.

Meanwhile, the sub-index for steel products stocks edged up to 50.8 in April from 50.7 in March, the 16th consecutive month above the 50-point threshold, said the CFLP.

As of April 20, steel products stocks of key steel producers stood at 16.68 million tonnes, up 1.26% from ten days ago and up 5.44% from the previous year, the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) said.

Industry insiders said the steel sector may recover a bit amid the government’s stimulus policies, and steel prices may rebound should demand improve further in May.
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