Steel prices may fall sharply: Official

A government economist has said that prices of HR coils may fall from the current level of $750 per tonne to $600 per tonne by December
Steel prices are likely to decline in the coming months due to a reversal of the same factors that led to a sharp surge in recent months, the head of the ministry of steel’s Economic Research Unit has said, reports PTI.

Chief economist, Joint Plant Committee, AS Firoz said, “Steel prices have perhaps reached their peak. I see potential weakening of the same, especially for long products, from now on.”

“I expect prices of HR coils to fall from the current level of $750 per tonne to about $600 to $650 per tonne by November or December 2010,” he said.

Explaining the rationale for his forecast, Mr Firoz said, “What one observes currently is a reversal of the factors that led to a surge in steel prices. For example, inventory liquidation over the coming period will replace rebuilding of stocks so far. There are new concerns in the global investment scenario also, which may cause a disruption in the capital market, especially in the emerging economies, thereby reducing investment confidence,” he said.

“There has already been some fall in long products prices in the world market, although the prices of flat products have remained unchanged overall for the time being. The prices of steel scrap and sponge iron have also slipped considerably. These are indications of a weakened steel market,” Mr Firoz said.

However, there are some experts who predict that the direction of steel prices could move even further upward in the coming months. Industry expert and director Sachin Sehgal, said, “If you look at infrastructure demand from India and China, there are still projects worth $5 billion-$10 billion in the pipeline. All these projects will require steel and cement and both will do well.”

“Prices will continue at a high level and even touch peaks as demand from India and China is very strong. Infrastructure projects will drive demand for steel and if demand is strong, there is no way they (steel prices) will come down,” he said.

On iron ore prices, Mr Sehgal said that they were expected to remain firm in 2010 and would be determined by the actions of the three big players, namely BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale.


Nalco board to take a view on disinvestment soon

If the government divests 10% stake in Nalco, at the current share price, over Rs2,000 crore can be raised

State-owned aluminium producer Nalco’s board will soon consider a 10% disinvestment proposal that may raise around Rs2,000 crore for the government, reports PTI.

“The department of disinvestment had recently written to us to consider 10% disinvestment in Nalco. We have forwarded the proposal to Nalco. Now the Nalco board will soon take a view on the disinvestment,” mines secretary Santha Sheila Nair told reporters.

The government at present holds 87.15% stake in the firm.

Earlier this month, mines minister BK Handique said that the ministry of finance had evinced interest in selling 10% stake in the firm, but the administrative ministry was yet to take a view on it.

The Nalco counter was trading at Rs 409 a share, down 0.01% from the previous close on the BSE.

If the government divests 10% stake in Nalco, at the current share price, over Rs2,000 crore can be raised. However, the final amount will depend on the issue price of the FPO.

Nalco may not raise any fresh equity along with the proposed stake sale, its CMD AK Srivastava had said last month.

The ministry of mines is currently considering an FPO in ailing Hindustan Copper Ltd, to raise an estimated Rs 4,500 crore for both the miner and the government.

“We are expected to send the proposal for Cabinet approval very soon,” she said.

The Centre is likely to go ahead with divestment in 12-15 public sector units, including SAIL, Coal India, Hindustan Copper, SJVNL and EIL among others in the current fiscal to raise about Rs40,000 crore.

On the proposed Mines & Minerals Development and Regulations Act, the secretary said, “The draft bill has gone to the ministry of law for vetting. It is in the final stages.”

The mines ministry is in the process of introducing a new legislation to govern the country’s mining and quarrying sectors.


Oil extends gains in Asian trade, stays above $85

Prices were supported by rising equity markets in Asia after a rally on Wall Street following encouraging US company results

Oil prices extended gains in Asian trade today on optimism over the US economic recovery following positive jobs data along with easing global fears about Greece’s debt crisis, analysts said, reports PTI.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for June delivery, rose 43 cents to $85.60 a barrel.

London's Brent North Sea crude for June delivery was up 21 cents to $87.11 per barrel.

Prices were supported by rising equity markets in Asia after a rally on Wall Street following encouraging US company results.

Hong Kong shares were 1.3% higher in early trading and Tokyo's Nikkei was up 1.35% by noon.

Falling claims for US unemployment benefits had lifted the oil market yesterday.

The US Labor Department said that initial jobless claims fell for the second straight week, by 11,000, in the week ending 24th April.

The claims were higher than expected but still “suggest some sort of recovery in the US economy, giving support to crude oil prices,” said Serene Lim, a Singapore-based analyst with ANZ Bank.

The analyst said that news that a bailout package for crisis-hit Greece could be reached soon was also seen to boost the oil market.

Traders would be looking at the quarter-on-quarter US gross domestic product data due later Friday for cues on the economic recovery in the world’s largest economy and biggest oil consumer, the analyst added.


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