European HRC prices stabilize in slow market; near-term sentiment remains downbeat

European hot-rolled coil prices were largely unchanged on Thursday February 22, with trading said to be minimal while buyers expected prices to move further downward, sources told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets calculated its daily steel hot-rolled coil index domestic, exw Northern Europe at €723.13 ($781.70) per tonne on Thursday, stable day on day.

The index was down by €14.47 per tonne week on week and by €23.12 per tonne month on month.

Stocks across the entire supply chain were relatively low, some industry sources said, adding that buyers would feel the need to restock in two to three weeks.

But other sources said that most buyers prefer to maintain lower stocks due to high price volatility and slow end-user demand, so no big restocking should be expected.

“Many buyers adapted to the volatile market and learned to live with hand-to-mouth purchases, without building high inventories,” a steel service center source in Germany said.

HRC offers from integrated mills in Northern Europe were heard at €740-760 per tonne ex-works in early February, down from €780-820 per tonne ex-works in January.

Trades for low volumes were reported at €720-730 per tonne ex-works in the region.

A re-roller from Benelux was heard offering HRC at €710-720 per tonne ex-works.

Most mills were heard to be offering April lead times, suggesting that producers had weaker order books than had initially been communicated to the market, Fastmarkets understands.

Despite some price drops observed in the market lately, buying remained weak because buyers were sure that the downtrend was not over, Fastmarkets heard.

“Prices are likely to drop to €700 [per tonne ex-works] but not lower. There is no pressure from imports, and production costs remain high,” a trader in the Benelux area said.

Fastmarkets calculated its daily steel hot-rolled coil index domestic, exw Italy at €720.63 per tonne on Thursday, down by €1.31 per tonne day on day from €721.94 per tonne.

The index was down by €10.20 per tonne week on week and by €14.92 per tonne month on month.

The Italian spot market for HRC was also slow on Thursday, with only occasional low-tonnage deals reported by buyers and sellers.

Domestic buyers claimed they had “sufficient stocks, in line with low demand downstream,” and therefore had no appetite for restocking.

Domestic mills were heard offering April-delivery material around €740-750 per tonne delivered (equivalent to €730-740 per tonne ex-works).

Buyer sources estimated workable prices in the range of €710-720 per tonne ex-works.

Some buyers suggested prices will decline to €700 per tonne ex-works in the next few weeks.

Offers of imported HRC from Asia were reported at €620-650 per tonne CFR, with Vietnamese suppliers offering at the lower end of the range.

Despite lower offers from Asian mills and some room for negotiations, pressure from imports on domestic prices was minimal, sources said.

“June-July delivery times offered by most overseas suppliers are not very inspiring. The market is too volatile,” a buyer in Italy said.

Published by: Julia Bolotova