Imports mirror EU consumption rebound, following consecutive declines

EU apparent steel consumption fell 9% on-year in 2023 to 126 million tonnes, compared to earlier projections of a 6.3% drop. This was despite fourth-quarter demand rising 2.8% on-year, following six consecutive quarters of decline, Eurofer points out.

The Ukraine war impact and high energy costs put steel demand into a downtrend since the second quarter of 2022. This deteriorated until Q4 2023 as a result of growing global economic uncertainty, high interest rates and overall manufacturing weakness.

EU apparent steel consumption is seen rebounding 3.2% in 2024, but this compares to the previous projection of 5.6% growth (see Kallanish passim).

EU domestic deliveries also rebounded in Q4, by 1.3%, after seven consecutive drops, but full-year deliveries remained down 7.9%.

Steel imports into the EU reflected the demand rebound, surging 11% in Q4. They dropped 8.5% over the full year, but so did EU demand, meaning imports’ share of apparent consumption remained high, at 27%, Eurofer says.

In January-February 2024, the growth continued as imports rose a further 4% on-year, with flat steel imports alone surging 33%. For finished steel imports, India had a share of 13.3%, then Turkey with 11.4%, South Korea with 10.6%, Vietnam with 10% and Taiwan with 9.6%.

EU finished steel exports fell 2% in 2023 due to a 7% drop in flats shipments and despite 10% growth in longs. January-February 2024 finished steel exports rose 9%, but overall steel shipments abroad fell 2%.

Two-month finished steel exports surged to United Arab Emirates by 252% and Ukraine by 56%, as well as Egypt and the UK by 24% and 22% respectively. They fell however to the US by 4%.

The EU’s total steel trade deficit narrowed in 2023 to 1.3mt from 1.6mt in 2022.

Adam Smith Poland