European HRC buyers skeptical about post-summer price rebound

Buyers and producers of steel hot-rolled coil in Europe have different expectations of how prices will develop after the summer holiday period, Fastmarkets heard on Friday August 18.

Buyers were broadly pessimistic, expecting either a rollover of prices or even a slight decrease, citing slow demand from the end-user side. They also expected an influx of cheap imports into Europe to weigh on the domestic HRC market.

Buyer sources claimed that rapid take-up of the EU import quotas would only limit imports in September and that, from October 1, when the new quota period will start, Europe will be “flooded” with cheaper import alternatives which had been booked in June-July at quite low prices.

“The only thing European mills could do to shift the balance in the market would be to reduce their own output and take a more unified approach to pricing, because we still can see some producers making panic sales at quite low prices,” a trading source said.

Buyers also said that European mills had gaps in their order books and that most of them were still able to offer September-rolling coil.

Currently, buyer sources estimated the tradeable price for HRC in Northern Europe at €630-640 ($685-696) per tonne ex-works for September-rolling material.

And one source reported hearing of a transaction for HRC of Central Europe origin during the week at €665 per tonne delivered for September delivery.

Mills sources were more optimistic, hoping to achieve some uptick in HRC prices in the spot market in September on expected restocking activity and lower availability of imports.

“The level of stock is quite low across the entire supply chain, so buyers will come back for volumes,” a mill source said.

Fastmarkets calculated its daily steel hot-rolled coil index domestic, exw Northern Europe at €636.25 per tonne on Friday, down by just €1.67 per tonne from €637.92 the previous day.

The index was also down by €8.33 per tonne week on week and by €34.58 per tonne month on month.

Fastmarkets’ calculation of its corresponding daily steel hot-rolled coil index domestic, exw Italy was €630.00 per tonne on Friday, down by €2.50 per tonne from €632.50 per tonne on the previous day.

The Italian index was down by €3.68 per tonne week on week, and down by €18.75 per tonne month on month.

The Italian market was seasonally quiet, with trading close to zero.

Buyer sources believed that the achievable price for September-rolling coil was no higher than €620-640 per tonne ex-works, similar to transaction levels seen before the summer maintenance closures.

But producers were expected to push offer prices substantially upward for September-October rolling — to €680-700 per tonne ex-works, several sources told Fastmarkets.

Buyers, however, were skeptical about such massive rises, given the lack of end-user demand.

Offers of November-December delivery HRC from Asian mills were reported at €610-630 per tonne CFR to Antwerp during the week.

Published by: Julia Bolotova