European HRC demand still steady as panic buying leaves market

European hot-rolled coil prices were heard slightly lower July 8 as buyers waited to determine the viability of future pricing, with imports more desirable because of lower prices and similar lead times to domestic sellers, sources told S&P Global Platts.

Market participants warned that although cheaper imports were available, there would be risks with clearing material on time.

“Indian HRC material will incur a duty — even if imports are cheaper, you never know what you’ll need to pay in the end. If you miss the initial day of bringing material into Europe, you will pay 25% duty,” a Benelux service center source said.

Domestic lead times continue to be lengthy, with spot transactions not guaranteed delivery before November-December, whereas some imports could be delivered as soon as late October.

HRC import prices from the Far East were heard between Eur1,050-1,090/mt CIF Antwerp.

In the Italian market, there was mixed sentiment on pricing, with some sources quoting varying HRC prices in the range of Eur1,090-1,150/mt ex-works Italy.

One Italy mill source said although import prices were almost Eur200/mt cheaper than local suppliers, he did not see why prices would go down.

“There is no panic anymore, but demand is still constant and present on a daily basis,” the mill source said. “Buyers will try to purchase imports as much as possible, knowing the limited quotas available.”

An Italy-based trader also agreed that demand was good, despite there being no more panic among customers.

“Market is doubtful in which direction it will go. Service centers are trying to postpone purchases and they reduce a bit their selling prices,” the trader said. “Their margins are so big that they can lose a few euros.”

Prices were still heard to be firm, with EU mills unlikely to reduce their prices because of long delivery times and a keen transition toward boosting investment in carbon-free steel.

— Amanda Flint