EUROPE BEAMS: Prices hit multi-year high amid strong demand, rising scrap costs

European domestic beam prices have reached their highest levels since Metal Bulletin started assessing the market in 2014, due to a combination of healthy consumption and mounting scrap costs.

Metal Bulletin’s price assessment for commodity-grade, 200 x 200-millimeter category-2 H-beams made in Northern Europe rose by €10-15 per tonne to €610-640 ($717-753) per tonne delivered on Wednesday December 13, compared with €600-625 per tonne delivered last week.

Domestic Southern European prices increased by €10-20 per tonne to €610-640 per tonne delivered on Wednesday.

Scrap costs have been rising over recent weeks due to high buying activity and sentiment over the ongoing steel output cut in northern China. Metal Bulletin’s daily scrap index for an 80:20 mix of Northern Europe-origin No. 1 and No. 2 heavy melting scrap remained unchanged at $346.20 per tonne cfr on Wednesday.

Moreover, beam producers are well-booked, given that mild winter weather across Europe is allowing more construction activity to take place than usual in December, sources said.

"The mills are in a comfortable position at the moment, they have the right to raise prices," one stockholder said. "The demand is there, our competitors have work [and] are raising prices,” he continued. "Still, this week, construction is going on. We are doing tonnes far above our expectations."

"It hasn't been very cold yet and there is no snow, so there is lots of work and inquiries,” one distributor said.

Demand from infrastructure projects is on the rise and there have been a "record" number of inquiries from end users in that sector over the last week, according to one mill source.

Further price increases
Some market sources were confident that prices could continue to rise in the first quarter of 2018.

"Due to overall demand, mills have good order books; and at the end of the year, they usually want higher prices for January,” another distributor source said.

“Because of scrap development, we think that within the first quarter the prices will be strong,” one trader said.

On the other hand, high prices for domestic beam in Europe were creating trepidation from buyers and more interest for imports, according to another trader. "Mills are announcing higher prices, so people are considering imports,” he said.

South Korea-origin material was heard sold at $600 per tonne cfr Southern Europe, with UAE-origin material available even lower than that.

"The market went up so quickly that people don't know how to transfer the costs to the end user,” he said.

That trader also doubted the material impact of the China output cut on steel markets.

"Mills say [prices are rising] because China is starting to import steel. This is speculation from the mills, they are taking this step to improve their sales and prices and using China as the excuse,” he said.

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