EU HRC: Italy closures heighten uncertainty

The Italian market has come to a complete standstill after the government announced over the weekend that all non-essential industries are to temporarily shut their operations until 3 April.

The Argus Italian index is unchanged at €440/t ex-works, while the northwest European index is also static at €474.50/t.

Market participants were still seeking clarification as to whether their businesses needed to be closed as well, as some producers are heard to be continuing. So far only ArcelorMittal Taranto is understood to have permission to carry on work — albeit as previously announced at reduced rates — while some EAF-based mills are building up cases as to why they should continue production. Workers’ unions are still pushing for the complete shutdown of production across the country, and some have said that they plan to strike on 25 March.

“All the customers are closed and cannot produce so where would they deliver?” a market participant said. “I suppose they must reduce drastically the output, due to the closures of most clients,” another one added. “There is no market anymore,” a third said.

But last week, Italian producers were still getting orders from northern Europe, which is a few days behind Italy in terms of the progression of the virus.

At the same time, CIS hot-rolled coil (HRC) prices are spiralling down, with the Argus daily CIS assessment down by $32.50/t in the past week to reach $430/t fob Black Sea today. The downtrend is likely to extend into Turkish coil pricing. Today some traders were short-selling Turkish and CIS HRC into North Africa, but some buyers in Turkey expect mills to revise prices down further in the coming days.