EUROPE HRC WRAP: Northern European buyers still wary on price moves

Domestic prices for hot-rolled coil in Northern Europe have been fairly stable over the past week, with minor fluctuations indicating buyers’ uncertainty about the future direction of price movements.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, domestic, ex-works Northern Europe, was €484.64 ($547.15) per tonne on Friday March 6. This was down by €0.26 per tonne week on week from €484.90 per tonne on February 28, but up by €45.48 per tonne since the start of the year.

The index was calculated based on deals and achievable prices heard at €480-490 per tonne ex-works.

Some deals for smaller tonnages – with higher extras for steel grades and other product parameters – were reported at €500 per tonne ex-works.

At the same time, official offers from the region’s mills were heard at €500-520 per tonne ex-works, although buyers were largely in “wait-and-see” mode last week.

The availability of HRC from Northern European mills has been limited due to long lead times – the steelmakers in the region have been offering for shipment in the second half of May or in June. In addition, no competitive import offers were heard over the week to Friday.

Distributors, however, reported that they were struggling to pass on the full rise in HRC prices in the costs of processed material to end-users, although some end-consumers have partially accepted the rise, according to market sources.

Demand from end-users has remained slow in Northern Europe in any case, market sources said.

As a result, European distributors preferred to book smaller tonnages to maintain their stock levels and were reluctant to accept a price rise for HRC, while the steelmakers were not keen to give discounts because they had good order books.

European buyers might turn to more expensive imported HRC if lead times from domestic mills get longer, according to market sources.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for steel HRC, import, cfr main port Northern Europe, was stable week on week at €480-485 per tonne on March 4. The assessment was based on “achievable” prices heard in the market.

Southern Europe, coronavirus concerns
Although some European buyers have been concerned that the outbreak of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus in Italy might result in shipment delays, the government lockdown of some areas in the north of the country was unlikely to have any substantial effect on production, market sources said.

On March 8, Italian authorities ordered a lockdown across the whole of Lombardy and in 14 provinces in the regions of Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont and Marche in an attempt to control the outbreak of the coronavirus.

While the lockdown will not have any effect on production or deliveries of steel goods, it may result in a slowdown of business activity due to the individual concerns of some buyers, market sources said.

Italian steelmakers have been trading hot-rolled coil at €435-450 per tonne ex-works but were looking for price rises to €460-470 per tonne ex-works.

ArcelorMittal Italia
Last week AM InvestCo, a consortium led by ArcelorMittal, reached an amended agreement with the commissioners for Italian flat steel producer Ilva.

The agreement was an update to the original lease and purchase agreement for Ilva. ArcelorMittal completed the acquisition of Ilva on November 1, 2018.

“The core of the new industrial plan is the construction of a [direct-reduced iron] facility to be funded and operated by third-party investors and an [electric-arc furnace] to be constructed by AM InvestCo,” ArcelorMittal said.

Last year, ArcelorMittal announced its intention to exit the deal to purchase the asset after the Italian authorities removed the legal protections that would allow it to implement its environmental plan without the risk of criminal liability.