European plate prices strengthen on new year optimism

The European heavy plate markets moved higher Jan. 6, with bullish expectations for the year given strong spot activity in December and ongoing infrastructural projects.

In Northern Europe, limited tonnage deals were reported at higher levels of around Eur950/mt ex-works for 10-40 mm material — with thinner products and special, project grade material offered at a large premium due to reduced availability.

“For 5-8 mm material and some project-grades we can achieve at least Eur100/mt extra — it seems stockholders are having a lot of difficulty in sourcing thinner material in particular,” said one mill source.

“There are big differences between commodity and project materials at the moment,” a distributor added.

Mill sources said they considered Eur950-1,000/mt as a target price for commodity grades — an increase from indications at around Eur900/mt ex-works reported in previous weeks.

Distributors were slightly less bullish, with tradable value cited at around Eur925/mt ex-works Northern Europe.

That said, there is a large spread of offers available for heavy plate in the Northern market, with one German mill reportedly holding offers above the Eur1,000/mt mark, ex-works Ruhr. Ex-stock plate was heard in a Eur1,000-1,075/mt range in the Northern market for s355 grade.

An offer was also heard on a delivered basis from the Italian market, at Eur960/mt delivered Germany ex-Italy, normalizing to roughly Eur900/mt or below for ex-works.

Indeed, sources considered tradable value for Italian heavy plate on a fairly wide range of Eur840-900/mt ex-works on the day, with producers in the South European market attempting to push prices by Eur30-70/mt on successful December trading.

“Those mills that had lower prices in December saw strong bookings for the first quarter and so are asking for a lot more now,” said a distributor. “Even the mills with higher prices are looking for increases and succeeding with Eur20-30/mt jumps — now they want another Eur30-40/mt.”

“We expect a strong year for heavy plate from a seller’s perspective,” the distributor added.

In terms of input costs for the re-roller-heavy Italian market, slab prices were assessed stable on the day at $640/mt CIF Italy, with offers reported at around $600-650/mt CIF in recent weeks.

Traders said they doubted whether the low end of said range could still be achieved however, with tradable value perceived higher at $630-650/mt CIF on the day.

“It’s hard to say what’s achievable at the moment give the rise in scrap prices,” said a trader. “A week ago I’d have said $600-630/mt was reasonable, but it should probably be higher now.”

Platts assessed heavy plate in Italy at Eur880/mt ex-works on the day, with North European prices assessed higher at Eur925/mt ex-works Ruhr.

Platts is part of S&P Global Commodity Insights

— Benjamin Steven