TOKYO The weakening yen is having a dramatic impact on Japanese steel trade, according to the latest industry figures.
Steel exports in the first five months of this year have risen almost 10 percent compared with the same period last year, while imports have fallen 9.3 percent to 2.96 million tonnes in the same comparison, according to the Japan Iron and Steel Federation.
On an annualized basis, that would put 2013 imports at a little over 7 million tonnes, its lowest level in at least four years.
Behind the sharp fall in imports has been the demise of the Japanese currency, which lost almost 18 percent of its value against the dollar from January to May.
Japans carbon steel imports dropped 13.3 percent to 1.6 million tonnes in the first five months of this year, with particularly sharp falls seen in inbound shipments of heavy plate as well as coated and galvanized sheet. While specialty steel imports were up 21.5 percent and those of secondary products rose 6 percent, their combined volumes amounted to just 12 percent of overall iron and steel imports.
Shipments from the regions two biggest suppliers to Japan fell sharply, with imports from South Korea down 11.6 percent to 1.42 million tonnes in the January-May period and shipments from China 15.5 percent lower at 494,953 tonnes.
There is very little to suggest that the trend of falling imports is likely to reverse course as long as the yen keeps weakening, industry observers said.
A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Steel First.