Europe HRC market activity subdued on signs of availability

European HRC prices on Jan. 19 were little changed in Northern Europe at Eur940/mt ex-works Ruhr, as a decline in Italian HRC prices widened the regional spread.

The spread between NW Europe and Italian ex-works HRC prices widened by Eur10/mt to Eur110/mt on the day, as the Platts HRC ex-works Italy assessment fell to Eur830/mt ex-works.

HRC prices looked stable from year-end in a Eur820-Eur830/mt ex-works Italy range, a trader said, noting larger volumes would be bid at lower prices. Delivered HRC pricing may be Eur840-Eur850/mt in Italy from local producers who may be able to accommodate shipments as early as February, another local market source said.

The market showed some hesitancy to book volume at offer levels, and higher availability, especially for HRC, was talked about across supply chains and for imports.

Buyers were looking to assess stocks at suppliers, service centers and at ports, and gauge changes to import pricing ahead of the Lunar New Year, a trader said.

New price offers by European mills are reportedly yet to find much traction, with one source citing a failure to secure any increase in Germany.

Another participant urged caution, seeing more time for offers to be defined across more producers and see feedback.

Import HRC and CRC prices edged lower, taking into account weaker purchasing sentiment in the run-up to the fiscal year with available forward offers.

Indications were seen to book March HRC production from Asian steel mills in a low-to-high Eur700/mt CIF range, depending on origin. However, deliveries would take well into the second quarter.

Indian HRC offers were heard at Eur730-740/mt CIF Europe, and $720-$730/mt CIF Italy, for material arriving well beyond the 6-12 week forward delivery window used for Platts import HRC assessments. Japanese and South Korean HRC pricing were higher, with Chinese HRC heard offered at $750/mt FOB.

For CRC, new import prices were indicated at Eur860/mt-Eur900/mt CIF Europe, for March shipment from Asia.

European CRC prices were said to be around Eur1,050/mt ex-works for March or April delivery.

“I don’t have very positive expectations,” a trader said of the flat steel market.

“Last year it was totally different. There was strong restocking and strong automotive demand. The situation is different now.”

He said HRC stocks in Western Europe were high, and similarly for hot-dipped galvanized steel, limiting restocking demand in the short term.

Heavy plate markets was said to see more potential trade, due to relatively low stocks. Plate of Indonesian origin was heard traded at Eur810/mt CIF Antwerp, April delivery.

— Hector Forster, Wojtek Laskowski