The current price premium for flat products in the United States, over figures in other parts of the world, continues to attract imports, placing downward pressure on domestic transaction values. Producers are still keen to lift selling figures but their proposal for a US$20 per short ton hike has, so far, not come to fruition as customers see the mills’ raw material costs slide. The consumption outlook is healthy but, at the moment, service centres are experiencing a seasonal slowdown in sales activity. Supply is more than adequate. Inventories are moderate to high and domestic mill delivery lead times for standard products are short.
Offshore material is still entering Canada but the price differential with domestically produced material is no longer as significant because overseas suppliers are worried about incurring ‘dumping’ penalties. Service centres are keeping inventories steady and only buying for orders already on their books. Demand on distributors is described as inconsistent, except for auto and energy applications. Resale values are under threat.
Ongoing weakness on the raw materials side continues to create negative price pressure in China’s steel market. There is softening domestic demand in the face of slow manufacturing growth. At the same time, output has been climbing. In reaction to a stubborn glut of material in the local market, producers are looking increasingly to overseas sales. Export volumes hit a new high in November. However, prices declined, giving rise to complaints from a number of countries.
Recent statistics showed that a fall in business spending had plunged the Japanese economy into deeper recession in the three months to September. Apparent steel consumption fell in October by almost 7 percent, year-on-year. In the same time frame, imports increased. They have been climbing now for twelve months in a row, with the main competition coming from China and South Korea. However, local producers are selling more overseas, although most export prices have fallen over the last two months. On the home market, selling values have stabilised.
Steel from both domestic and overseas sources continues to flood the South Korean market, weighing heavily on selling values. Lower iron ore prices are also driving figures down. Although total imports fell in November, month-on-month, they are still a major cause for concern. Currently, Chinese material accounts for over half of foreign arrivals.
Demand in the Taiwanese home market has weakened. Major integrated producer, CSC, reported a drop in November shipments of almost 9 percent. Downstream mills and finished goods manufacturers are facing growing competition in export markets as the Japanese yen and South Korean won devaluate rapidly against the US dollar. Local steel prices are under pressure, not only from cheaper overseas offers but also from declining input costs.
Polish service centres report that activity has slowed ahead of the holidays. Effective numbers are unchanged, for now, in euros but are slightly down in zloty terms due to the recent strengthening of the local currency. The general economic situation has improved in the Czech Republic, albeit in a hesitant fashion. In Slovakia, growth has now surpassed pre-crisis levels. In both countries, steel prices have weakened a little. However, pressure from Russia has retreated, mainly because the order quantities required by producers in that country are generally too large for East European customers to finance. Sales are stable at a low level.
West European demand remains lacklustre as many clients try to minimise their inventories before the close of the financial year. Although the mills tried to resist calls for lower prices, in the majority of cases, they failed. Values have continued to fall, following the trend in raw materials. Offers from Asia are not particularly competitive at present but supply from domestic sources is plentiful.
Source: MEPS International Steel Review – December Issue