May 31, 2018 / 2:16 PM / 20 days ago

Steel, aluminum stocks gain as U.S. moves ahead with tariffs

(Reuters) - Shares of U.S. steel and aluminum producers gained on Thursday after the Trump administration moved ahead with tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, ending a two-month exemption.

Idled blast furnaces at U.S. Steel Corp's Granite City Works in Granite City, Illinois, U.S. on on July 5, 2017. REUTERS/David Lawder

On March 23, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum, but had granted temporary exemptions to Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the EU, Australia and Argentina. The S&P 1500 steel index .SPCOMSTEEL has risen 13.4 percent since then, and gained another 1.6 percent on Thursday morning.

Shares of U.S. Steel (X.N) and AK Steel (AKS.N) jumped about 6 percent each, while Nucor (NUE.N) and Steel Dynamics (STLD.O) gained more than 2 percent.

Century Aluminum (CENX.O) jumped 7.1 percent, and Alcoa (AA.N) gained 3.6 percent.

Meanwhile, shares of big metal consumers including planemaker Boeing (BA.N) and heavy machinery maker Caterpillar (CAT.N) declined about 1.5 percent each.

Boeing was the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI, which was down 0.95 percent. [.N]

Tariffs have led to higher steel and aluminum prices in the United States, benefiting producers but potentially squeezing profit margins of large companies that use the metals.

Caterpillar’s strong performance in the March quarter was overshadowed by concerns that rising materials costs could hurt its margins.

For Boeing, a 10 percent aluminum tariff would increase the cost of manufacturing some planes by about 1.2 percent if all of the aluminum is imported. But most of the aluminum Boeing uses is domestically produced.

Analysts pointed out that trade disagreements between the United States and Europe were far from over.

“We expect immediate retaliation from the EU, which, on a net basis, to us serves no positive economic purpose,” KeyBanc analyst Philip Gibbs said in a note.

He added: “We believe general consensus in the market was cooler heads would prevail and the EU and (North American Free Trade Agreement) trading partners would either be provided permanent exemptions and/or be subject to tariff-rate quotas.”

The European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28 EU members, has said the bloc should be permanently exempted from the tariffs since it is an ally and not the cause of steel and aluminum over-capacity.

EU countries have given broad support to the Commission’s plan to set duties on 2.8 billion euros ($3.3 billion) of U.S. exports, including whiskey and motorbikes, if Washington ends the EU tariff exemption. EU exports potentially subject to U.S. duties are worth 6.4 billion euros.

Reporting by Rachit Vats, Ankit Ajmera and Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar

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