* Scrap contract is CME's 13th steel-related product
* CME continues to work on Chinese ferrous contract
* U.S. HRC contract open interest hit record highs in February
NEW YORK, June 20 (Reuters) - The CME Group said it plans to launch a U.S. steel scrap contract to expand its offering of ferrous derivatives contracts, as the Chicago exchange aims to cash in on growing interest in price risk management in the sector.
The new contract, the exchange's 13th steel and steel raw materials contract and its second scrap contract, will be launched in the autumn, a spokesman for the exchange said on Wednesday confirming an announcement by Harriet Hunnable, managing director for metals, at the AMM Steel Success Strategies conference in New York this week.
The new contract could provide hedging opportunities to scrap recyclers, mini mills and construction companies, who buy long steel products produced from steel scrap.
Financial players, including U.S. bank JP Morgan, have also shown interest in the contract.
The CME contract could benefit from a recent decline in interest in the four-year old steel physically-backed billet futures offered by the London Metal Exchange.
The contracts will be settled against an AMM index.
No other details were available, although it is likely to be cash settled as the Chicago exchange has had success with contracts settled against cash rather than physical delivery with its other steel products.
The news comes as the exchange continues to work on launching ferrous contracts in China, which is the world's largest steel producer and consumer and has a growing investor base, and as liquidity in its U.S. hot-rolled-coil (HRC) contract increases.
"Asia is the most actively traded market. We're putting a lot of resources into it," Hunnable told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday ahead of the announcement. The exchange is working with its Chinese partner MySteel who is collecting pricing data which would be used for a possible contract.
The exchange's HRC contract has attracted increasing liquidity, represented by open interest which has hit record highs above 14,000 lots in February, Hunnable said. It has since fallen below that level, but remains just under 14,000 lots.
Trading volumes are more volatile though, totaling around 6,000 lots in January and February, but plunging to under 2,000 lots in the following two months.
U.S. service centers, appliance manufacturers and steel mills are using the contract, she said. Steelmakers, including ArcelorMittal and Nucor Corp, have been vocal in their opposition to futures contracts, but Hunnable said mills are started to invest in educating their staff on hedging.
She declined to name mills that have been using the hedging tool, but said growing liquidity have helped to build confidence among users.
"They're very engaged. They are very alive to price volatility and the fact that the futures contract is working," she said.