According to the latest report from MEPS International Ltd, there has been very little activity in the European flat products market in the first two weeks following the Christmas and New Year holidays. The domestic mills still have little competition from third country suppliers who are offering at similar levels but with much longer delivery lead times. MEPS noted some small basis increases in several countries in late December when producers withdrew most of their cheapest deals. Steelmakers do not consider that current prices are satisfactory and insist they need to lift them by €30/40 per tonne for April deliveries. Most first half 2014 contracts with the auto industry have been concluded at the same price as in the second half of last year.
In the German market, many companies that did not order from the mills at the end of 2013 may now need to restock. So far, there has been only steady purchasing activity. Chinese suppliers are trying to sell material but their offers are at similar levels to those from the domestic producers.
The French market started up very slowly, following the end-of-year break. Market participants expect only a small number of new orders to be placed before mid-January. The mills are currently consolidating the modest rise obtained in December and pushing for further increases.
MEPS reported a marginal improvement in Italian flat product basis numbers but there is a great deal of caution in the market. Sales have been better than expected but economic recovery is likely to be very fragile. Business at Ilva’s Taranto works has not fully returned to normality, although there should be less uncertainty from now on.
Growing optimism has developed in the UK steel industry. However, the strengthening pound makes the market more vulnerable to import offers, whilst at the same time stifling exports. A number of service centres report a promising start to 2014 and November was the busiest month of last year for large stockholders. Resale values are reasonably firm. The basis figures we last reported for January business also apply now for February. Steelmakers are hoping to achieve higher selling figures for March but demand will dictate how hard they push. Mainland European suppliers are already benefiting from the currency exchange rate differential.
Source: MEPS – European Steel Review
Also See: MEPS – EU Steel Prices Online