RESEARCH: Key takeaways from the latest Steel Market Tracker

The latest forecasts from Fastmarkets’ team of analysts is ready to view.

  • An uneven recovery in Chinese construction and manufacturing sectors meant that rebar prices performed better than hot-rolled coil prices in April. Although domestic and export HRC prices in China were higher than we forecast, we expect the downward trend to last into May and will not be upwardly adjusting our forecast for this month. Improving construction demand, however, should support rebar prices and the upward trend should continue, leading to a widening premium for rebar over HRC prices.
  • Relative stability in the European Union at the start of April due to inactive markets meant that HRC prices outperformed our expectations, but prices started to slide in the second half of the month to levels we anticipated. We maintain our view that flat steel prices will continue trending lower while demand remains weak, but we expect economic activity to start to revive in the second half of the year and lift price levels. Rebar prices increased on a month-on-month basis thanks to mill closures and steady demand from the construction sector. We hold our view that prices will move down as more supply comes back on stream, but a possible rise in scrap prices in May could provide temporary support to long steel prices.
  • The European market is facing a major uncertainty around the application of its safeguard quotas, and the local steel association asked the European Commission (EC) to temporarily reduce quotas by as much as 75% and cut country caps for major exporters from 30%. If the EC decides to implement these measures fully, we expect to see a near-complete stop to steel imports coming into Europe. The impact will be particularly significant for countries that traditionally rely on imports, giving a boost to domestic steel prices.
  • In the United States, on April 30 and May 1 producers announced coil price hikes of $55-65 per tonne and it is our view that mills are attempting to impose a pricing floor and prompt restocking by service centers and other end users. While we questions about the likely success of mill ambitions to press for a price hike, given the reopening of numerous states in early May, we do now believe that flat product prices will find a floor this month - an adjustment from our previous forecast where we tagged June as the likely time for a market bottom. We have also raised our average monthly domestic HRC floor to $483 per tonne for May. We have upwardly revised our forecast based on the relative resilience of steel prices in global markets keeping import prices elevated and import competition subdued, significant domestic mill shutdowns and relatively steady demand from the construction sector.

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