An imbalance in supply and demand has continued to weigh heavily on European flat product prices. Despite optimistic macroeconomic indicators in several countries, customers are still hesitant to place orders. March’s sudden dip in raw material costs caused a negative reaction in the market. Now that the trend has reversed somewhat, we may see prices bottom out. Indeed, several buyers have commented that the mills have recently become quite resistant to granting further discounts.
Although the business climate is relatively good in Germany, steel prices have been under pressure because the market is being targeted by producers in other EU countries, where demand is more subdued.
There has been no improvement in French activity. End-user demand on the service centres is poor and resale prices are described as ‘awful’. Meanwhile, the mills have tried to resist downward price pressure as best they can.
In Italy, Ilva reduced prices for new orders due to competitive offers from China and a reduction in iron ore costs. Business activity is slow, with very few deals being concluded. Market sentiment is poor. There is a lack of demand from end-users. Consequently, service centres are reluctant to purchase new material. Buyers are postponing placing orders because they fear that the bottom has not been reached.
UK flat product service centres report that both demand and profit margins, in March, remained stable to good. However, mill basis figures began to fall when raw material costs declined but have steadied now. Nevertheless, buyers are sceptical that the, recently announced, June hike can be secured, due to oversupply.
In Belgium, the positive economic indicators are not reflected in distributors’ sales. There are many imports from Southern Europe that, even with relatively high transport costs, are very competitively priced. This has created negative pressure in the marketplace. Even though the mills are proposing an increase for June, buyers do not appear to be prepared to pay more.
Sentiment is starting to recover a little in Spain due to better economic forecasts for 2014. However, the steel market remains quiet and prices have continued to slump. Very little business was actually placed at the lower prices because, in late March, buyers believed further discounts were possible. Opinion has now changed because the mills have become reluctant to make commitments at those levels.
Source: MEPS – European Steel Review