Overall European strip mill product demand slowed, in July, according to MEPS International Ltd. Many customers had sufficient stock to see them through the summer. With delivery lead times now into the fourth quarter, buyers hesitated to place new business. More attractive third country import offers, especially in southern Europe, plus the likelihood of improved availability from domestic mills in the autumn, led purchasers to anticipate the possibility of some discounts, later in the year. However, prices should be supported by new and existing trade defence measures. For now, some minor downward corrections were noted.
The German economy is performing well. The auto sector remains healthy and construction activity is reasonable. Service centre stocks are now mid-range, following some reductions. MEPS detects no problems regarding availability from distributors. Strip mill product basis figures weakened marginally, in July. Buyers report more interesting offers from Asia.
Activity remained subdued, in France, in early July. Market participants expected a noticeable slowdown in the second half of the month. End-users were loath to build up stocks ahead of the long summer holidays, due to uncertainty over future price trends. Basis values stopped rising, in July, amidst rumours of lower domestic prices in southern Europe and more attractive import offers. Nevertheless, buyers report delivery delays from local mills, with limited availability of material.
Italian basis figures began to erode, in July, partly due to the traditional pre-August slowdown in activity. Cheaper imports, from China, South Korea and India, also contributed to the downward pressure. Real consumption, except by the carmakers, is fragile. Moreover, uncertainty over the future development of prices caused buyers to postpone purchasing decisions.
Short-term fallout from the UK referendum vote created a more healthy environment for exports of both steel and finished goods, as the currency weakened. Moreover, the UK is, presently, less attractive to importers. However, currency movements pushed up raw material costs for the steelmakers. Most flat product prices were unchanged, in July, but continental producers are investigating the possibility of lifting basis values to offset the weaker pound. Shortages of standard sizes were reported by several distributors.
Few price changes were noted in the Belgian market, during the past four weeks. Demand is reasonable. Buyers expect quantities of Chinese and Russian material, ordered earlier in the year, to arrive at the ports in September. This could put domestic mill values under pressure. Customers anticipate small discounts once fourth quarter negotiations get underway. At the moment, service centre stocks are fair, partly because of delayed deliveries.
Import pressure and reducing apparent demand led to downward price corrections in the Spanish market, when discussions for October deliveries were finalised. Service centres, having rebuilt their stocks, do not need to order substantial quantities, immediately. In addition, buyers renewed their interest in third country imports, which, recently, became cheaper than the high domestic values reached in May/June. Low-cost imports are already starting to arrive.
Source: MEPS – European Steel Review – July 2016 Issue