Full order books, lack of competitive imports keep EU HRC mills bullish

Full order book of the European mills for the first quarter of 2024 and low buyers’ interest in imports kept hot-rolled coil market mood bullish on Jan. 15, although real demand remained subdued.

“Mills are asking for Eur800/mt ex-works [Ruhr] for April-May delivery HRC, it seems that the steelmakers view this as an actual target rather than just a number they used to send a message to the market,” a service center source said. The source also estimated near-term tradable value at Eur770-780/mt ex-works Ruhr.

European buyers have been avoiding import due to filled quotas for Asian material in Q1 and expected that the material already booked would be enough to exhaust Q2 quota. Market sources reported that the European buyers had to pay safeguard duties of around 8% for HRC imported from ‘other countries’ category in Q1.

Exporters from the Far East have also been holding back trading to Europe due to logistical problems caused by geopolitical situation in the Red Sea.

Some buyers, however, believe that real demand would not pick up enough to support price rise and to absorb increased domestic output after restart of some blast furnaces in Europe.

“[The] problem is low or no demand,” a distributor said. “It [is] usual that a big producer would announce price increase and all other mills would follow. But at the end of the day, the mill that increased the first would sell at the old price and take all the volumes from the market.”

Platts assessed domestic prices for hot-rolled coil in Northwest Europe up Eur5/mt on the day to Eur735/mt ex-works Ruhr Jan. 15.

Tradable values were reported at Eur730-750/mt ex-works Ruhr, majority of data received were at Eur730-740/mt ex-works Ruhr.

Author Maria Tanatarmaria.tanatar@spglobal.com