UPDATE 1-U.S. ITC ends probes into titanium sponge from Kazakhstan, Japan

WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. International Trade Commission said on Friday it voted to end its probe into whether titanium sponge imports from Japan and Kazakhstan are injuring U.S. producers, saying it had not found harm in its preliminary investigations.

The decision follows the launch last month of a U.S. Commerce Department probe on whether anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties were merited. It acted after petitions from U.S.-based Titanium Metals Corp, part of Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s Precision Castparts Corp.

The vote to end the probe represents a setback for U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ strategy of pursuing more trade enforcement cases on behalf of U.S. industries.

The ITC rarely ends anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations at such an early stage.

The company had sought anti-dumping duties of 42 percent for producers in Kazakhstan and 67-95 percent for producers in Japan. The original petition did not include a specific request for anti-subsidy duties.

Commerce Department data shows 2016 imports of titanium sponge from Japan and Kazakhstan were estimated at $144.8 million and $374,000, respectively.

Titanium sponge is a porous form of titanium resulting from the first stage of processing the metal for use in the aerospace, electronic, architectural and sports equipment industries. (Reporting by Justin Mitchell, David Lawder, and Eric Walsh; Editing by Susan Heavey and W Simon)