European stainless flat steel market stagnates

The European stainless flat steel market remains uncertain and slow to restart after the winter holiday break. Despite some relatively good downstream demand, there is concern about high prices, and distributors tend to refuse any attempts at increases.

European mills intend to lift their hot and cold rolled coil prices for February delivery but are not succeeding. Lead times are still short and stocks in Europe are medium to medium-high, with no rush to secure coils.

In northern and southern Europe, end-users are reported to have a good order intake. However, after the skyrocketing financial results of 2021 and 2022, the market is finding it challenging to return to a level of “normal consumption”, as opposed to a “drugged post-pandemic consumption”, a service centre comments.

Overall, re-rollers and service centres see a positive year ahead in terms of flats sales, but with reduced consumption that will result in “normalisation” of prices and volumes.

While demand for flats is said to be average although slow, stainless tube sales are significantly slowing due to very low demand downstream. Tube buyers are putting off investments and new projects. A poor level of orders is said to be coming from the construction sector. Because of uncertainty in Italy, distributors are keeping prices low and refusing any increases, sources tell Kallanish.

Meanwhile, Asian coil producers have increased prices by some $100-150/tonne, but sales activity in China and Taiwan is also reported to be slow. While some large EU buyers purchased from Asia last month, one says that material from the Far East will arrive towards the end of April or in May, which is discouraging importers in such uncertain times.

Northern European stainless CRC values are now hovering at €3,050-3,100/t ($3,299-3,353) on average and at approximately €2,900-2,950/t delivered for HRC. Italian prices are some €150/t lower, sources suggest.

Natalia Capra France