UNITED KINGDOM September 19 2014 3:35 PM
LONDON (Scrap Register): The European holiday season in late July and August led to a significant slowdown in strip mill market activity, said MEPS International in a research note.
Generally, prices have held steady through the summer. More recently, ArcelorMittal announced the intention to raise product values by €20 per ton, for all new business to be delivered in the final trimester. The initiative is mainly driven by better mill order books and declining competition from third country importers, as a result of the weaker euro. Most October business has already been settled at the old prices. It remains to be seen whether the increase can be imposed for the remainder of the quarter. Most buyers believe that current consumption is not strong enough to support an advance, particularly as the producers’ raw material costs are reducing.
There has been no real change in German market prices over the last two months. The mills are targeting a €20 per ton rise but this has, so far, proved unsuccessful. However, the downward trend has been halted. There is very little interest from third country suppliers because domestic values are comparatively low. Moreover, the exchange rate is now working in favor of local steelmakers.
French demand remains very modest in early September. With end-users still ordering on a day-to-day basis, distributors have been reluctant to place new business. In addition, some are still receiving material ordered in July. Meanwhile, European mills have been pushing for price rises but buyers remain sceptical.
At the beginning of September, Italian producers, Ilva and Marcegaglia, announced an official increase of €20 per tonne for October. MEPS has noted little effect on market selling values so far, apart from a halt to the recent price slide. This has been helped by the decrease in import competition. There are few enquiries from end-users, who appear to have sufficient stock for today’s low level of demand.
A number of UK distributors reported reasonable demand in August, despite seasonal factors. September has also started well. Nevertheless, basis figures dropped below the level published in MEPS’ July issue, due to intense import competition. The recent weakening of sterling is an interesting development, which could affect forward orders for Chinese and even mainland European material. The announced price increases have not been applied for October business and November is still to be agreed. This may help to arrest the downward tendency.
Despite reasonable economic forecasts, activity in the Belgian market is very slow. Basis figures are stable, even though all the major mills are claiming increases of €10/15 per ton. Third country imports look less attractive because of currency movements.
The likelihood of limited import competition, together with supply issues that could result from the Ukrainian crisis, have given the mills confidence to push for higher prices in Spain. October business is already settled at the figures agreed before the holidays but some buyers feel that €10 per ton may be achievable for November.