SYDNEY, April 21 (Reuters) - Shares of most Asian steelmakers rose on Friday, deflecting the first salvo of a long-anticipated anti-dumping campaign from U.S. President Donald Trump.
Citing concerns about national security, Trump on Thursday launched a trade probe against China and other exporters of cheap steel into the U.S. market, raising the possibility of new tariffs.
In Japan, shares in Nippon Steel rose 1.5 percent, after five weeks of steady losses, partly on speculation any action by the U.S. would mostly target China which is easily the world's largest producer.
South Korean steelmaker Posco followed with gains of over 2 percent.
"Trump is targeting China, although he says the steel import probe has nothing to do with China," said Choi Moon-sun, a steel analyst at Korea Investment & Securities in Seoul.
"Only about 5 percent of South Korea's steel produce goes to U.S., so any impact will be very limited for Posco. China will feel the pain if there is any wider import restrictions."
Trump won many votes in industrial states like Michigan and Pennsylvania with a pledge to boost manufacturing and crack down on Chinese trade practices.
His move diverges from the Obama administration's approach to the issue, which relied largely on filing complaints to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
China is the largest national steel producer and makes far more than it consumes, selling the excess output overseas, often undercutting domestic producers.
Investors in most Chinese producers seemed to absorb the news well, in part because it had been so long telegraphed.
Shares in Baoshan Iron & Steel Co, Angang Steel and Baotou Steel were up anywhere from 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent.
Beijing has long pledged to downsize the industry which is plagued by oversupply from inefficient, high-polluting mills, but has baulked at the potential loss of jobs.
Many Chinese investors seem to favour a rationalisation in production as shares in low-cost producers rally whenever cutbacks are floated.
However, a year-long rally in Chinese iron ore and steel futures prices has slammed into reverse in recent weeks on fears that production is starting to outstrip domestic demand.
Inventories are swelling, adding to fears of a supply glut later in the year.
China's crude steel output reached a record 72 million tonnes in March as mills ramped up output.
Its exports of steel products rose about 32 percent to 7.56 million tonnes in March from February, when they were at a three-year low. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Additional reporting by Dahee Kim, Cynthia Kim; Editing by Kim Coghill)