A steel price report front cover.

Producers Attempt to Reverse Price Trend but Buyers Resist

Industrial activity and steel consumption are stronger, generally, in Scandinavia, than in the rest of Europe. Regional producers attempted to reverse the negative price tendency, and improve their profitability, by introducing increased selling values, for coils, sheets and plates, in June. Buyers, however, took a different view, and small price reductions were recorded, for most products, in the countries surveyed.

The poor regional sales environment kept hot rolled coil prices on a downward trend, in Denmark. Swedish purchasing activity is quite stable. Distributors, in Finland, are reported to be selling cheaply, in an effort to reduce their inventories. In the Netherlands, sales volumes are below forecast levels but transaction values appear to have bottomed out. European mill output cuts are having little effect on the Austrian market. Norwegian domestic sales are strong.

Danish end-user demand for hot rolled plate remains subdued. The Finnish market is quite strong. Demand is solid but unspectacular, in the Netherlands. In Austria, a small decline in transaction values was reported.

Cold rolled coil selling values remain on a negative path, despite European mill production cuts. Market participants believe that increased demand will be needed, to lift prices, following the summer holiday season. Finnish market activity is likely to reduce, significantly, as the summer vacation period approaches. Mill delivery lead times are stretching, in the Netherlands. Buying is weak, in Austria. Purchase volumes, in the Norwegian home market, are good.

Sales of coated sheet and coil to the automotive sectors remain subdued. Prices, in Denmark, continue to be on a downward curve. In Sweden, sales to non-residential building projects are healthy. European mills were unable to lift selling values, this month, in Norway, but increases are expected.

Demand for wire rod, from Swedish end-users, is strong. Orders from manufacturers are less robust, in Finland. Mill delivery lead times are short, and material is plentiful. Low sales volumes are expected, in the third quarter, due to widespread holidays and plant maintenance stoppages. The next tranche of EC steel quota availability will put more imported material onto the market, in July. Demand is inconsistent, in the Netherlands.

Beam prices remain under negative pressure, in Denmark. Steelmakers are reducing their output but Norwegian buyers report capacity available on imminent rolling programmes. Commercial building activity is at a good level, in Sweden. Demand from the building sector, in Finland, is quite weak. Sales volumes are satisfactory, in the Netherlands, and EU mills are pushing for increases. Construction activity is at a low level, in Austria.

Domestic reinforcing bar demand is fair, in Denmark, but regional consumption is weak. Sales, for infrastructure and non-residential building projects, are strong, in Sweden. Transaction values declined, in the Netherlands, in June. Austrian domestic prices decreased, amidst disappointing construction and infrastructure activity.

Danish buyers of merchant bars report modest order loads, on regional mills. Weak demand, in northern Europe, is having a negative effect on selling values. Supply chain participants believe that a substantial upturn in demand would be required to reverse the existing price trend.

Source: MEPS European Steel Review Supplement