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Home > MEPS Steel News - 23.01.2013


The European flat products market was slow to resume after the extended Christmas/New Year celebrations, according to a recent report by MEPS (International) Ltd. Prior to the holiday, on December 14, ArcelorMittal announced a further rise of €20 per tonne, following the limited success of its November, €40 per tonne, initiative. Although the mills continue to push for increases, customers remain sceptical that any significant advance will prove possible, given the current, poor state of demand. The hikes are being driven by the steelmakers’ needs to restore profitability in a climate of high raw material costs. Most import offers remain uncompetitive.

Inventories are relatively low at German service centres and some stock replenishment is expected during the first quarter, which should help the mills to realise some of their price hike proposals. Many companies had still not completely finalised their period one price negotiations in early January. The demand outlook for this year is not very optimistic.

In France, end-user activity continues to be weak. It is too early to confirm any improvement in apparent demand from distributors. Meanwhile, producers continue to apply the price rises they had started to implement at the end of last year. Import volumes remain low as buyers refuse to commit to long delivery lead times. Negotiations with the auto industry have been finalised, with first half figures agreed at around €50/60 per tonne lower than in the second half of 2012.

In Italy, the Ilva plant at Taranto has been given permission to ship coil, following several weeks of disruption and the situation is slowly getting back to normal. Economic conditions are dire and service centres report that steel demand is shrinking on a weekly basis. The domestic mills have pushed through small increases during recent settlements but these are driven purely by higher input costs. There has been some import activity, mainly before Christmas, because of fears of shortages caused by the Ilva situation but, overall, overseas offers are not particularly attractive.

Suppliers to the UK market are outwardly sticking to their price hike proposals but are still hungry for orders. Business conducted in late December was at previous levels. Activity was slow at the start of the New Year. Any price increases would kick in later in to the first quarter.

Many Spanish buyers are staying out of the market in early January in order to see whether the steelmakers can maintain their price levels. Demand has not improved to support higher basis numbers. However, third country importers have significantly inflated their quotations, on shipments for arrival April onwards, due to soaring raw material costs.

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