European apparent steel consumption to improve in 2024, but at slower rate than expected – Eurofer

Apparent steel demand in Europe will begin to improve in 2024, according to steel industry association Eurofer, but not as fast as previously predicted and not before posting a year-on-year decline for 2023 – the fourth annual downturn in the trading bloc over the past five years.

Apparent demand is expected to recover by 5.6%, rising to 137 million tonnes in 2024, Eurofer said in its first-quarter outlook report on Thursday February 8, revising down its previous upbeat forecast of a 7.6% recovery for the year.

The European regional steel industry association also lowered its expectations for 2023, during which it now expects apparent steel consumption to have fallen by about 6.3% year on year to 129 million tonnes.

In its previous outlook in October, Eurofer said it expected to see a 5.2% year-on-year consumption drop to 132 million tonnes for 2023.

“Improvements in apparent steel consumption are not expected before the first quarter of 2024,” the association said.

But apparent steel consumption in the EU did improve in January, with flat steel prices recovering, supported by restocking.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index domestic, exw Northern Europe averaged €731.73 ($788.32) per tonne in January, sharply up from a monthly average of €688.20 in December 2023. The January average also is the highest since May 2023.

That trend seems to be changing in early February, sources said, and in recent weeks buyers have been trying to reduce inventories and have shown little interest in purchasing.

HRC prices have been edging down in the spot market since February 2, although market participants told Fastmarkets that a full-on downtrend was unlikely because the steel mills have healthy order books and the import options are limited.

“The overall evolution of steel demand remains subject to very high uncertainty,” Eurofer said.

End-user outlook

The automotive industry in Europe was one of the few steel-consuming sectors to perform well in 2023, with data from the European Automotive Manufacturers Association showing that new car registrations surged by almost 14% in 2023, with more than 10.5 million new vehicle sales.

Eurofer said automotive output in the bloc will have increased by 8.8% overall in 2023, revised up from its previous recovery rate prediction of 6.4%.

But overall output levels in the sector remain low in historical terms, with the industry continuing to be exposed to external factors and expected to remain at pre-crisis levels seen in 2018-2019. The sector is expected to grow by 0.1% in 2024 and by 0.2% in 2025.

Market participants said that demand for steel coil from the automotive industry has been broadly stable at low levels through 2023 and was not expected to show any significant rebound in 2024.


The construction industry, meanwhile, is expected to have declined moderately, by 2.1%, in 2023, Eurofer said, revised down from a 1.7% decline forecast in October, after having grown by 4.8% in 2022.

For 2024, Eurofer said construction activity will continue to decline, falling by 0.4% rather than its previous prediction of a 0.2% recovery.

“This negative trend [in construction output] is expected to persist and to extend [through the first half of] 2024, mainly due to the impact of continued monetary policy tightening, via higher mortgage rates, [restricting] housing demand,” Eurofer said.

Among construction sub-sectors, civil engineering is expected to remain the best-performer in 2024 due to support from EU-wide public policies. But Eurofer acknowledged that the effect of policy initiatives has become “increasingly uncertain and difficult to quantify due to the recent deterioration of the economic outlook.”

Weak construction demand has weighed heavily on the European long steel market in recent months, with high interest rates limiting activity, especially in the residential sub-sector, the association said.

“The construction industry is facing pressure from rising interest rates [and] there is a lack of new projects,” a European trading source said.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for steel reinforcing bar (rebar), domestic, delivered Northern Europe averaged €655 per tonne in January 2024, up slightly by €12.50 per tonne from a monthly average of €642.50 per tonne in December 2023. The assessment however was sharply down from a monthly average €768.13 per tonne in January 2023.

Published by: Julia Bolotova