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(Adds details on duty decision dates, biofuel uses)
By David Lawder and Michael Hirtzer
WASHINGTON/CHICAGO, May 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. International Trade Commission voted on Friday to continue a U.S. Commerce Department investigation into alleged dumping and unfair subsidies of biodiesel fuels from Argentina and Indonesia, moving a step closer to punitive U.S. duties.
The 5-0 decision followed the initiation of Commerce Department probes in April after U.S. biodiesel producers claimed that soaring imports from Argentina and Indonesia were dumped at prices below production costs, harming their ability to produce the fuels.
The next step in the probe is for the U.S. Commerce Department to determine whether to impose preliminary countervailing duties and anti-dumping duties, with those decisions expected on or around June 16 and Aug. 30, respectively, the ITC said in a separate statement.
Futures prices for soyoil, the most common feedstock used in U.S. biodiesel production, surged nearly 3 percent ahead of the vote before trimming gains. CBOT soyoil for July delivery settled 0.40 cent higher at $32.90 cents per pound, off their earlier six-week high of $33.47.
Prices of biomass-based diesel (D4) renewable fuel credits (RINs) for the current year traded from $1.01 to $1.045 each, rising in the wake of the vote, traders said.
U.S. biodiesel makers Archer Daniels Midland Co and Renewable Energy Group Inc praised the ITC vote. Renewable Energy's shares jumped 16 percent while ADM shares were about flat.
"The facts clearly show that Argentina and Indonesia are engaging in unfair trade practices, and we are confident that duties will be imposed when the final decision is made," said Ray Bradbury, president of biodiesel at ADM, one of the petitioners for the dumping investigation.
Argentina's biodiesel association Carbio declined to comment.
Imports of soy-based biodiesel from Argentina and palm oil-based biodiesel from Indonesia rose 464 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).
U.S. biodiesel imports in 2016 hit a record 916 million gallons (3.5 billion liters), according to U.S. government data. Argentina represented about two-thirds, followed by Indonesia and Canada. The imports accounted for nearly half of U.S. biodiesel demand for 2 billion gallons.
Most is blended with regular diesel for motor fuel, with some used as heating fuel or to generate electricity.
"Today's decision in our favor is an important next step for the U.S. biodiesel producers suffering because of the flood of imports," said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at NBB. (Additional reporting by Chris Prentice in New York and Eric Walsh in Washington; editing by Andrew Hay, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)