European hot-rolled coil remains in wait-and-see mode

The European hot-rolled coil market was quiet Dec. 3, entering a wait-and-see mode amid high stocks, sources told S&P Global Platts.

“The market is very quiet,” a Benelux steel service center source said. “Stocks are high, if not very high. No appetite to place orders must make mills nervous.”

Mills were still offering additional volumes in the market, but most buyers are not willing to buy unless on a back-to-back basis.

“Most SSC and stockholders are working toward end of year, so they don’t buy now,” another Benelux buyer said.

Sources have been more optimistic in recent days with chatter that the German auto industry would be strengthening, having received more semiconductors for Q1, and Northwest European mills were heard mulling exporting more into the US, which could support domestic price levels as it would tighten supply in Europe.

Also, higher energy and logistics costs will need to be passed on across the supply chain in the coming year.

Market participants were also observing potential changes in China because of production curbs, which could set a trend for international steel prices.

However, the HRC spot market remained at an impasse, with sources reporting one Western European tier-2 mill offering Eur920/mt EXW, though sources said that was not reflective of the current market level, which was in the Eur950-975/mt EXW Ruhr range Dec 3.

Imports remained difficult to work with as ports in Italy and Antwerp in Belgium were full. Importers were dealing with delays in getting material processed and lack of warehousing facilities around the ports, while vessels were waiting days to unload at times.

— Laura Varriale