UK distributors await return of HRC mills to market, pessimistic on increases

Offers were heard as largely withdrawn in the UK hot-rolled coil market Jan. 19, with mills expected to return week beginning 23 Jan. for second-quarter sales.

What material was available on the market was indicatively offered at GBP720-730/mt DDP West Midlands ex-Europe from a prime mill, according to market participants.

Bookings earlier in the week were reported at around GBP660-670/mt for limited tonnages. Cheaper material was heard as available in the high GBP600s from one European re-roller, but this price level is expected to disappear in the near-term as mills return to market.

Steelmakers are widely cited as having secured their orderbooks for the first quarter, now looking bullishly to the second quarter on reduced production and stronger bookings.

However, many in the hot-rolled coil markets see the increased demand as illusory – unsupported by end-user consumption, with some distributor stock levels sufficient to sustain until around March before resuming more substantial purchasing.

“The concerning thing for everyone right now is demand, and we don’t have any real confidence that things will be better than average at best,” said a stockholder source. “The mills are trying to add two and two and getting five – higher prices on a weak market doesn’t make sense and they’ll end up falling over each other to cut prices again later in the year as capacities come back online and stock levels fail to deplete.”

Platts assessed hot-rolled coil in the UK up GBP10/mt on week, at GBP680/mt DDP West Midlands.

Platts is part of S&P Global Commodity Insights.

— Benjamin Steven