European HRC traders watch for emergence of new import offers as domestic lead times extend

Prices were stable for European hot-rolled coil Jan. 5, with market participants continuing to wait and see amid a scarcity of domestic or import offers.

Platts assessed North European HRC stable on the day, at Eur700/mt ex-works Ruhr.

Distribution sources generally had Eur700/mt ex-works in mind as a minimum price level for January trading, though mills are reportedly considering higher prices given strong restocking activity in December. However, concerns remain on buy-side that increases are not fundamentally supported.

“It’s fine to be bullish but the one thing I would say is that this price increase was stimulated by restocking unrelated to end-user demand,” said a distributor. “That said, with lead times extending, people will need to buy soon for April, so it’s probable the increase will last the month at least.”

Trader sources were awaiting new import offers, with only a few foreign mills advertising material.

“A lot of mills aren’t offering yet,” said one Northern trader. “Most are waiting to see who moves first in the market and where prices will land – we’ve received a few offers from India but are still awaiting prices from the far-east on hot-rolled.”

While offers are indeed sparse, indications were received for import material at $670/mt CIF Spain ex-India, and at $660-$670/mt CIF Italy ex-Egypt.

Prices were anticipated to increase to Eur700/mt CIF in the Italian market, as reported by a mill source, with traders somewhat positive on near-term activity given longer European mill lead-times as compared to the second half of last year.

Import offers have been heard for as late as June delivery, with aforementioned European mill lead times extending into March.

Platts is part of S&P Global Commodity Insights.

— Benjamin Steven