August 2020 has seen the prices of most steel products move up in tandem around the world, in contrast to recent months when steel prices have moved in different directions depending on the market.

This dynamic has been seen in most coated steel markets as well, with the prices for hot-dipped galvanized coil (HDG), pre-painted galvanized iron (PPGI) and tinplate all heading upward over recent weeks.

Of course, there remain differences between key global markets, with prices in China by and large showing more strength in their upward moves than those in Europe and the United States. Nevertheless, the general move upward globally is illustrative of a world economy slowly recovering from the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

That said, while prices are on the increase, this is generally only because steelmakers are passing on the rising costs of raw materials and/or substrates.

As we detail in our Asia analysis this month, although Chinese prices for coated steels have increased noticeably in recent months, so too have steelmakers’ costs. In some cases, margins have in fact been squeezed.

Production cutbacks during a time of rising prices are not always common but may occur as we enter the fourth quarter – a typically slower period of the year for steel markets across much of Asia.

Elsewhere, margins have not necessarily been squeezed but they have not fully recovered from the shocks of 2020 so far either. Again, price increases in Europe, the US and the global tinplate markets mostly only reflect cost increases.

Perhaps European margins will improve somewhat over the coming months. The region has further tightened its trade measures affecting coated steels this month, and prices there remain relatively low, but the outlook is largely cautious.

This is particularly so for products that are heavily dependent on consumer spending, such as tinplate, because while government spending will step in to shore up regional economies, consumer spending is likely to remain subdued for the foreseeable future.

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