European HRC prices ‘likely reached rock bottom’, but trading remains thin

The European hot-rolled coil market was quiet on Wednesday October 25, with fierce downstream competition and slow end-user demand blocking mills’ bullish attempts to raise prices.

Fastmarkets calculated its daily steel HRC index, domestic, exw Northern Europe at €611.46 ($650.01) per tonne on October 25, up by €0.46 per tonne from €611.00 per tonne on October 24.

The index was down by €5.42 per tonne week on week and by €20.42 per tonne month on month.

Most market sources agreed that prices have hit rock bottom and further drops are unlikely due to mounting costs at mills.

Trading in the spot market remained slow and buyers continued to postpone their restocking.

“The market is quiet and silent. I think everybody is waiting, but at the same time it looks like the market has bottomed out,” a steel service center source in the region told Fastmarkets.

Despite mills’ attempts to increase offers slightly, market sources saw prices as largely flat with indications of tradeable values at around €600-620 per tonne ex-works.

This compares with target levels voiced by some integrated mills at €630-645 per tonne ex-works for November/December-delivery HRC.

Deals were scarce with most buyers tending to book small volumes to cover urgent needs.

Market sources suggested that larger distributors were postponing purchases until a major industry trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany, in early November.

“Blechexpo might be a trendsetter, but as long as the market is quiet I think nobody will buy more than is needed and won’t speculate,” a trading source said.

Output cuts implemented by several European producers during the fourth quarter could lead to price rebounds when buyers start booking January-delivery tonnages, some sources said.

“There is little hope for a real demand rebound this year,” a distributor in Germany said. “But stocks are trending lower and buyers will need to return for volumes.”

“I think the pick-up in apparent buying can support some short-term minor price rises, but nothing booming can be expected since consumption is still weak,” the distributor added.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel HRC index, domestic, exw Italy was €600 per tonne on October 25, unchanged from a day earlier.

The index was up by €9.12 per tonne week on week, but down by €21.67 per tonne month on month.

Italian mills tried to increase their selling prices for November/December-delivery HRC to €620-630 per tonne ex-works, but no transactions were reported at these price levels.

Buyer estimates of tradable prices were at €580-600 per tonne ex-works.

But producers were rejecting bids below €600 per tonne ex-works, according to most sources.

In the downstream market, HR sheet was traded at €670-700 per tonne delivered, but some sources reported lower transactions at €660 per tonne delivered.

“Some steel service centers are being very aggressive with sales to end users, which also puts pressure on prices. The gap between HRC and cut-to-length material should be at least €100. So, sales [of HR sheet] at €660 are suicidal,” a second distributor said.

Further price declines for HRC in the nation were considered unlikely by market sources due to rising input costs at mills. A strong price rebound was also seen as unlikely due to slow demand from end users.

“Stabilization [of HRC prices] is the most likely scenario for the next couple of weeks,” a second trading source told Fastmarkets.

Meanwhile, the market for overseas coil remained quiet. Asian suppliers maintained HRC offers at around €580-600 per tonne CFR to Italy for January shipment.

Bids for such material were no higher than €550 per tonne CFR, but suppliers were not ready to cut prices.

“EU ports are full and EU buyers don’t want to do risky business; not only the price but also the risk of paying duties cools demand for imported HRC,” a third trading source said.

Published by: Julia Bolotova