German steel traders and producers expected prices to remain strong during February, though the expectation was less firm month on month as mills tried to aim for higher prices but buyers held back, according to an S&P Global Commodity Insights survey.
The February index for traders’ sentiment stood at 60 points, compared to 68.75 points in January, data from S&P Global’s German Steel Sentiment Survey showed.
The index for producers’ sentiment was 62.50 points, compared with a January index of 87.50 points, showing that producers were significantly less firm compared to traders regarding near term price increases.
The overall index for prices was at 61.25 points, compared with 78.13 points for January.
Overall, steelmakers in Europe were aiming for higher prices for steel products.
One European long steelmaker expected prices in Germany for long steel products to remain stable or firm up. “We could cut down capacities rather than lowering prices,” the source said, adding there did not seem to be any fundamental reason for prices to go down.
“Medium sections prices are the lowest level in the last three years,” the source said. “Energy prices are still high. Not at [Russia-Ukraine] war levels but still high. Scrap seems to be still strong, but market is not ready to accept current high prices which is not workable for mills.”
One long steel distributor in the Benelux region expected prices to remain stable during February. “Demand is overall too weak, for prices to be able to increase.”
Platts assessed European medium sections price (category 1, S235 JR) unchanged week on week on Feb. 7 at Eur780/mt ($840/mt) delivered, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights data. Platts assessed Northwest Europe Rebar down Eur2.50/mt week on week at Eur632.50/mt ex-works.
On the flat steel side, sources reported strong prices, though trading activity in the European hot-rolled coil market remained muted. Platts assessed domestic prices for hot-rolled coil in Northwest Europe unchanged day on day at Eur745/mt ex-works Ruhr on Feb. 8.
The overall index for German inventory sentiment reflected that the market unanimously expected stock levels to remain stable during February. The index for the month stood at 50 points compared with 46.88 points in January.
The index for steel producers for February was at 50 points, compared with 37.50 points in January. The index for traders’ sentiment stood at 50 points, compared with 56.25 points for the previous month.
One European long steelmaker said while inventory levels were low, “everyone is waiting for prices to cut down”, so he expected inventory levels to remain stable at current levels.
The long steel distributor also expected inventory levels to remain stable at low levels “due to weak demand and near-term uncertainty regarding price direction.”
“The market is very quiet, buyers do not need material as they have enough coil in stocks,” a German service-center source said. “And prices are rather high now, distributors often struggle to transfer the rising prices to their clients.”
Production to fall
Market sources expected production levels to either be cut or maintain low capacities due to weak demand.
Some long steel producers had already cut production, sources said. The Benelux-based long steel distributor source also expected that mills might cut production levels during the month due to weak demand.
The index for production outlook was around at 38.75 points, compared with 46.88 points for January. The index for traders’ sentiment was 40 points, down from 43.75 points. The index for producers’ sentiment was at 37.50 points, down from 50 points as producers were more bullish regarding production activity than traders.