Italian plate makers maintain lion’s share of EU spot market

North European plate prices are rapidly catching up to hot-rolled coil prices, with some sources expecting them to surpass HRC by year-end, reinstating the usual premium plate prices have held over HRC. Demand has cooled down slightly over the last few days but market participants were optimistic the positive pricing trend would continue, sources told S&P Global Platts June 4.

While HRC prices saw insurmountable levels, plate prices climbed in the background as slab prices sustained steep prices and plate supply dwindled due to continuous destocking in Germany.

A European mill source said the plate market is healthy and that prices were moving faster than HRC due to scarce availability.

“[Plate] prices are well above [Eur1000/mt ex-works Ruhr] and catching up to HRC rapidly,” the mill source said. “Lead times are already for October minimum for new orders from mills.”

The same source said he expected North European prices to near Eur1100/mt ex-works Ruhr.

In the Italian market, prices were catching up to Ruhr, with offers heard at Eur1050/mt ex-works, according to one mill source.

“Main German players are struggling to offer prices because their lead times are so long so they would rather not offer – it opens up the market for us in Italy,” the mill source said. “The pace is catching up, if someone is in need of material, any price will work.”

The same mill source did notice that demand was starting to lag, as was evident in the coils market.

“The demand for volume is stalling, some buyers are waiting to see where this is going, whether it’s a real or new push. The reality is that slab prices are not going downward, so no reason for prices to change,” the mill source said.

Despite the lag in demand, producers remain optimistic that if HRC prices remain where they are, and government incentives begin to kick in, the market will stay buoyant.

“Recovery plans from all over Europe haven’t materialized yet but when they do, many infrastructure projects will start up, and these projects will take capacity out of the market,” said the same mill source.

Italian plate producers have been wrapping up July orders and looking to offer Eur50/mt more for August delivery, whereas German producers were offering as late as November for new production.

— Amanda Flint