EUROPE HRC WRAP: Domestic prices inch up in north, stable in south
Domestic prices for steel hot-rolled coil in Northern Europe increased over the week to Friday February 19, supported by good order books at domestic producers and solid demand.
Prices in the South of the region, in the meantime, were stable over the same period.
Fastmarkets calculated its daily steel hot-rolled coil index, domestic, exw Northern Europe, at €723.75 ($877.00) per tonne on February 19, up by €3.75 per tonne week on week and by €4.75 per tonne month on month.
The calculation of Friday’s index was based on achievable prices heard at €710-730 per tonne ex-works and a deal reported at €725 per tonne ex-works.
Market sources expected that domestic prices in the region would remain fairly stable at these high levels, fluctuating in the range of €700-730 per tonne ex-works. Some sources also believed that mills were likely to make an attempt to increase offers to trigger further transaction price rises.
Some market sources have been concerned that the decreased demand from the automotive sector, partly driven by a shortage of the computer chips used in cars, would result in automotive production cuts and would therefore reduce flat steel consumption by European carmakers.
Sales of passenger cars in the EU dropped by 24.04% year-on-year in January 2021, the European Automotive Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said.
Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for steel HRC, domestic, exw Southern Europe, was €700-710 per tonne ex-works on February 17, unchanged week on week.
The assessment reflected achievable prices heard in the market.
Some producers from Central Europe had been able to offer HRC for earlier delivery than competitors in other regions, but prices were reported to be in line with those from producers in the North. Lead times also were long, according to market sources.
European buyers said they were struggling to secure orders due to reduced availability from domestic mills, caused by good order books and a lack of import offers.
Producers in the North of the EU were said to be either offering late-second-quarter-rolling HRC or to be sold out for second-quarter production. Italian mills, in the meantime, were not giving offers because they were overbooked.
In addition, on February 13, an Italian court ordered ArcelorMittal Italia to close the hot area of its Taranto plant within 60 days. This made buyers concerned that output would fall further and that orders may not be delivered on time.
Some sources believed that the producer was unlikely to close but that it would be forced to keep production at a low level, instead of conducting its planned production increase. Other sources expected the appeal filed by ArcelorMittal to be upheld by Italian authorities by the end of the month.
On February 18, ArcelorMittal Italia said that it had submitted an appeal to the council of state in Rome on the previous day.
The lack of import offers, combined with existing European trade and safeguard measures, also contributed to reduced availability.
Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for steel HRC, import, cfr main port Southern Europe, was €660-680 per tonne on February 17, up by €10 per tonne from €650-670 per tonne.
The assessment was based on the lower end of offers for material from Turkey and Asia, heard at €660-690 per tonne cfr.
The corresponding weekly price assessment for steel HRC, import, cfr main port Northern Europe, was €670-680 per tonne on February 17, also up by €10 per tonne from €660-670 per tonne.
Last week, Italian steel distributors’ association Assofermet sent a letter to the European Commission highlighting the distortion in the EU carbon and stainless flat steel markets caused by the region’s anti-dumping and safeguard measures.
The association specifically asked that the existing safeguard measures on steel imports should not be prolonged beyond their scheduled expiration on June 30 this year.