European steel market seeing sustained growth, ArcelorMittal says

European steelmakers are benefiting from a sustained increase in demand, as stronger economic indicators translate into a tangible rise in steel movements, according to an ArcelorMittal executive.

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“Positive indicators and statistics are one thing, but what we are seeing now is that those indicators and statistics are translating into activity [and] stronger steel demand,” he said.

The gross domestic product (GDP) forecast for the eurozone has been revised upwards in the latest European Commission spring forecast to 1.5%, up 2%.

Notably this includes stronger performances in France, Spain and Poland.

“This is important to us,” the executive source said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also highlighted a stronger recover in France and Italy.

“We all know the story of Germany, but now there are other countries growing too. The story in Europe is not only Germany anymore.

Consumer sentiment has also improved in the eurozone since the beginning of the year.

“This is visible in the white goods sector,” the ArcelorMittal executive said. “Eurofer has shown an upward trend in the sector [of] 2-2.5% in 2015-2016.”

The automotive sector, particularly, has outperformed expectations.

March was a strong month with new passenger car sales in the European Union growing by 10.6% year-on-year.

Demand in April increased by 6.9% year-on-year.

“We had expected a strong performance [in the automotive sector], but every time the sector has performed above expectation,” the executive said.

It is the combination of several positive indicators that is bringing confidence back to the market.

“All the points reflect confirmed strength rather than a fragile peak or spike,” the source said.

Another supporting factor is the developments in the euro exchange rate.

The euro has been weak for a long period and ArcelorMittal examined which end user sectors were taking advantage of this situation.

The packaging sector has been one of the main beneficiaries, the company said.

“European manufacturers have been picking up export orders and have seen activity and capacity utilisation rates picking up. That translates into higher steel demand,” the executive said.

Combined, all these factors result in a “sustained stronger performance”, the executive said, with order books of European steelmakers filling up and lead times extending.

ArcelorMittal saw its European earnings increase by 40% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2015, which it attributed to cost reductions and improved EU demand.