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EU Steel Summary

Long Steel Buyers delay restocking

Potential price increases considered by European longs producers, amid firm output costs, failed to materialise, as buyers delayed restocking, observing decreases in the international market. In the domestic market sale prices for Italian rebar were hovering around €600/t (€340/t base) ex-works, with up to €10/t discounts available for sizable tonnages. Similar levels were indicated available for Italian rebar to nearby countries, which was still met with little interest.

Drawing quality wire rod in Italy, Spain and northwestern countries was available at €650-670/t delivered locally and to nearby markets, with Italian mesh quality wire rod quoted around €20/t lower. “Demand is low and we have to fight for every order”, a Spanish market participant said. In Poland wire rod prices locally and from other EU suppliers were still higher, at €670-700/t delivered.

In Germany and other western European countries consumption is estimated around 25-40pc down compared to previous years, with customers preferring to cover needs with local material. Smaller-sized construction companies are on short-time working as demand remains weak, a German participant said. But German mills maintained rebar prices at €400/t delivered base, the equivalent of €665-670/t delivered including extras for sizes. Discounts for sizable tonnages up to €10/t lower were available. In the meantime, fabricators were quoting cut and bent rebar at €670-680/t, with €690/t targeted for smaller orders.

Polish rebar was still available at €640-650/t delivered to Baltic and central European customers. Spanish mills continued quoting rebar at €640-650/t cfr to nearby countries. Many participants were concerned about talks that Celsa plans to sell its assets in Poland, Norway and the UK, but the company did not respond to a request for comment.

In the Baltic region, customers adopted a wait-and-see mode amid decreasing prices, willing to restock at lower levels, given that stockists were quoting imported rebar at €630-635/t.

In Bulgaria, rebar offers stood at 1,230-1,245 lev/t (around €629-637/t) delivered, but this was negotiable.

Spanish customers were reported considering buying drawing quality wire rod at €610-615/t cfr from the Mena region last week, with Turkish suppliers willing to match the upper end of this range now, but no sales were heard concluded. In particular, Turkish rebar was quoted mainly at $610-620/t fob, with wire rod at $620/t fob and above, but some sellers were heard being more aggressive and were willing to sell $5-10/t lower.

Egyptian sellers were offering rebar and wire rod at $600/t fob and $610/t fob, respectively, but some of them were willing to accept lower levels. Sales from Egypt were reported mainly to the US, Europe and nearby markets in previous weeks. Algerian and GCC mills focused on the domestic or higher-priced outlets. Malaysian and Vietnamese wire rod was heard available at around €610/t cfr, with other Asian origins quoted slightly lower. Indonesian wire rod prices fell by $15/t lately, to $545/t fob.

European buyers were not willing to restock substantially locally or from overseas suppliers. An average distributor does not even buy at lower prices, because they are concerned of having too much inventory, an EU market participant said. Interest rates are very high too, he added. Workable levels for high-carbon wire rod were indicated at €750-770/t delivered in Italy, with €780/t achieved in some cases.

Flat Steel

European hot-rolled coil prices have slipped over the past two weeks, with mills seeking orders in a very slow demand environment. Argus’ daily northwest EU HRC index fell from €739.75/t on 7 February to €724.75/t on 21 February, a drop of €15/t. Over the same period of time the headline Italian index has dropped from €751.25/t to €724.25/t, a drop of €27/t.

Sentiment probably remains gloomiest in the north, given Germany’s continued manufacturing contraction. Service centres in the country are trading with each other to fill stockouts, rather than committing to imports or domestic mill production.

However, Italian prices have fallen more in recent weeks because of lower import offers. Asia has returned from the lunar new year with softer quotations from most sellers, widening the gap between import and domestic prices, and further dissuading buyers from committing to new tonnages.

Indian HRC was offered by one mill around €635/t cif, almost €90/t below domestic prices.

Source: Argus