Strikes could stretch EU stainless coil lead times

European prices for stainless cold rolled coil are increasing in transactions on-month. Italian values are lower than the rest of EU countries due to continued uncertainty in the market and low activity downstream, sources tell Kallanish.

Sheet prices however are increasing on-month in all of Europe and also in Italy, where stocks are said to be medium-low. At present Outokumpu and Acerinox are idling their plants due to strikes. Since less coils will be available on the market, mills are expected to delay orders. Longer lead-times are seen supporting steelmakers’ price increases for May delivery.

The strike happening in Finland is aimed against the Finnish government and is not related to Outokumpu’s labour relations. The majority of Outokumpu’s stainless steel and ferrochrome operations as well as Tornio port in Finland will be shut down for two weeks between 11-25 March. The strike is also expected to indirectly impact Outokumpu’s operations in other countries through internal material flows. Meanwhile, Acerinox employees have been on an indefinite strike since 5 February over the new collective agreement. The industrial action involves almost 1,800 people. The strike is understood to be continuing during the negotiation process. The company is losing almost 1,200 tonnes/day of production since its workers at Cadiz declared the indefinite strike. Financial losses are estimated to have exceeded €3.5 million ($3.80m) over the last four weeks (see Kallanish passim).

Mills in Europe are now asking €2,580-2,600/tonne ($2,809-2,831) delivered for stainless cold rolled coils for end-May delivery. Italian contracts are ticking up to €2,400-2,450/t on average, while European CRC is pegged at €2,500-2,550/t delivered, sources suggest. Stainless HRC prices in Italy remain weak due to imports from Asian countries. Domestic values stand at €2,300/t delivered, on average. European sheet prices are also increasing by some €100/t on-month. In Italy sheets are pegged at €2,700/t ex-works, sources suggest.

Natalia Capra France