EU plate market becomes paralysed, direction unclear

Buyers of plate in northwestern Europe are expressing different views over the near future of prices. Overall, uncertainty over price direction appears to be greater than is typically the case at the end of summer.

All buyers speak of a very quiet market with hardly any transactions, as inventories are still well-filled. “Our warehouses are still fully crammed,” a manger of a distribution group lets on, adding that “customers are very sceptical and reserved.”

Most sources also agree on the current level of offers from northwestern European integrated mills, which they see at around €1,100/tonne ($1,098) delivered for S355 grade. Looking ahead, “we do not expect big moves in either direction; maybe €20-30 up or down,” a northern German manager tells Kallanish.

According to a mill source, prices were even somewhat lower in early August, at €1,050/t ex-works, but he finds that activity has resumed slightly now. The overall lack of orientation prevails for mills as well, with a big question mark over whether customers would accept rising energy costs being factored into prices.

“Our latest prices are a couple of weeks old now, and we have not issued new ones yet,” the mill source says, describing the prevailing uncertainty. “People are very reserved, especially with bigger projects, because no one knows what tomorrow will bring.”

Managers at two distribution groups cite low-priced imports as another likely factor to pull domestic prices down. Still, one admits he is not sure either way. “I am really curious about what the autumn will bring. It’s a game on the edge of a knife, and the trend might drift in either direction,” he opines.

Christian Koehl Germany