EUROPE HRC WRAP: Domestic prices slide in north, outlook uncertain

Domestic prices for hot-rolled coil in Northern Europe have decreased over the past week due to uncertainty over the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and more competitive import offers.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, domestic, ex-works Northern Europe, was €481.18 ($534.53) per tonne on Friday March 13. This was down by €3.46 per tonne week on week from €484.64 per tonne on March 6.

The index was calculated based on deals and workable prices heard at €470-490 per tonne ex-works.

Northern European mills have not all been following the same pricing policy, according to market sources.

Some mills with good order books – and claiming to be offering June shipment coil – are offering material at €500-520 per tonne and are willing to trade at €485-490 per tonne ex-works, while other steelmakers, which have not secured orders, are ready to accept prices of €470-475 per tonne ex-works.

Bids for the material have been heard at €460-470 per tonne ex-works.

Sources said the market lacked direction due to uncertainties related to 2019-nCoV and the lockdown in Italy.

A reduction in imports from Italy to the north of Europe should have a positive impact on domestic prices in the region, according to some market participants. But others said that border closures and a reduction in steel production and demand from steel-consuming industries will have a significant downward impact on prices.

In the meantime, trading activity in Northern Europe has already fallen with market participants preferring to “wait-and-see” how the situation will develop, sources added.

Flat steel producers in Italy have not yet halted their operations, the sources added, but the lockdown has resulted in frozen market activity and logistics problems due to a shortage of truck drivers and complications at border crossings.

By the end of last week there were massive queues of trucks at the Italian border with Austria and Bulgaria, sources said. Buyers in Germany have also reported delays of steel deliveries.

Italian steel producers have been offering and trading HRC at €440-450 per tonne ex-works. Prices have been stable in an extremely slow market.

Import offers, currency fluctuations
Import offers for HRC in Europe moved down last week, partly driven by the strengthening of the euro against the US dollar.

The euro had gained 3.61% week on week against the dollar and was trading at €1 to $1.142 on March 9, according to exchange rate service Oanda. Since then, however it lost 2.75% and it was trading at €1 to $1.111 on March 16.

Russian HRC was on offer in Northern Europe at €470 per tonne fca Antwerp, according to market sources. And offers of Turkish and Asian coil in have been reported at €465-470 per tonne cfr Antwerp.

A deal for HRC originating in Asia was heard at €445 per tonne cfr Italian ports.