EU long steel demand remains weak, but mills target hikes

European domestic steel sections prices remained largely stable week on week, as buyers held back from booking orders amid slow end-user demand, sources said.

Platts’ European medium sections price (category 1, S235 JR) assessment was at Eur1,200/mt delivered July 13, unchanged week on week.

One large European mill was heard by multiple buyers to target a minimum Eur60/mt hike on long steel prices amid rising energy costs and ferrous scrap prices.

In Northern Europe, the Platts July assessment for domestic shredded scrap was at Eur360/mt delivered to the mill July 11, down sharply from Eur397.50/mt in June but up from expectations of Eur290-300/mt delivered in early July.

“We are in a wait-and-see mode [before buying] to see end-user demand as there are holidays now in Belgium and next week in the Netherlands,” a Benelux-based distributor said, citing a lowest workable level at Eur1,180/mt delivered for medium sections, up from Eur1,150/mt delivered one week earlier.

A second Benelux-based distributor cited a slightly higher workable level at Eur1,180-1,200/mt delivered.

One European mill source said around Eur1,200/mt delivered was now workable, following recent sales around Eur1,150-1,180/mt delivered.

“I believe prices have bottomed out and that stocks levels are low, but while there is some uncertainty on demand, I think there will be some buying activity,” the mill source added.

A second European mill source cited lower medium sections offers at Eur1,240-1,250/mt delivered, down from 1,250-1,300/mt delivered July 6.

“We see the same low demand and negative sentiment — I’m not sure when demand will return, but buyers are underestimating the reduction in the number of offers when they return as the mill stoppages will be massive,” the second mill source said.

Multiple producers reported upcoming summer maintenance stoppages of varying lengths, including as long as seven weeks, and further capacity utilization reductions in order to mitigate the hike in energy costs. Low water levels on key steel trading waterways such as the Rhine may also affect mill capacity utilization rates, as barges carrying key raw materials cannot be loaded to capacity, sources said.

Elsewhere, Northwest European domestic rebar prices also softened in the week to July 13.

The assessment of Platts’ TSI Northwest Europe Rebar was down Eur5/mt to Eur1,015/mt ex-works July 13.

German mills were heard to offer rebar at Eur1,020/mt EXW, while a French mill was heard to offer around Eur1,010/mt delivered Benelux, down week on week from Eur1,045/mt delivered July 6, but up Eur985-990/mt delivered July 7-8.

Import rebar offers to Europe were heard at Eur830-850/mt CFR from Turkey for the EU tariff-free import quota, but buyers were heard to not be so keen to book so far forward, with the euro-US dollar exchange rate also reducing the attractiveness of imports. Offers from Algeria were also heard at a similar price range of Eur830-850/mt CFR.

Platts assessed the euro at $1.0086 at 4:30 pm London time July 13, up from $1.0070 July 12.

An Italian mill was expected to raise domestic rebar prices by around Eur40/mt higher to Eur900/mt EXW Italy July 14, sources said.

Platts’ assessment for Southern European shredded scrap was at Eur350/mt delivered to the mill July 11, down sharply from Eur400/mt delivered in July. However, Italian mill sources cited higher prices July 12, with shredded scrap rising to Eur370-380/mt delivered.

— Viral Shah, Maria Tanatar