Stainless flats prices, demand continue to improve

Sales activity for European stainless steel coil, sheet and tube continues to be sustained in October after a dynamic September following a long period of market weakness, sources in the sector tell Kallanish.

Flat product prices are increasing by some €50-100/tonne ($48-97) this month, depending on product and tonnage. Re-rollers and service centres throughout Europe say orders and shipments are at higher levels compared to last month. However, the flow of tube orders continues to be inconsistent.

European stainless cold and hot rolled coil is increasing by some €100/t compared to last month. The increases and prices heard in the market are for November and December delivery, but mills are not quoting prices for January. In northern European countries, both HRC and CRC remain above the level of €3,000/t delivered, at about €3,000-3,100/t for HRC and €3,200/t for CRC. Values are slightly lower in southern Europe, where HRC is sold at €2,550-2,600/t, thanks to import competition, and CRC is at €3,050-3,100/t delivered.

At current coil sales values and amid skyrocketing costs, steelmakers are said to be selling nearly at a loss. Because of the margin squeeze, some mills are only producing when they have orders, and they all continue to implement stoppages to save on energy bills. Sources expect CRC prices in Europe to increase in January to €3,500/t and possibly €4,000/t delivered. European steelmakers may not be able to produce at prices below this, given current energy and raw material prices, sources believe.

Demand for coil, flats and tube products was extremely weak in the May-August period in Western and southern European countries. It has improved significantly in September and October. The European market is expected to gain further traction in January as some balance should be restored in first-quarter demand.

Natalia Capra France