Central European buyers adopt ‘wait and see’ positions
The steel markets in Poland and the Czech Republic are under review, as buyers assess the current dynamics in supply and demand. The mills, both locally and globally, are processing a substantial backlog of orders. Sales volumes to customers have reduced due to the harsh winter weather. This has prompted a period of contemplation for supply chain participants as they try to anticipate the direction of steel prices in the coming months.
In Poland, end-user demand is expected to pick up. Steelmakers, particularly those in Europe, will remain under pressure to supply customers’ requirements, amid restricted capacity. However, a growing shortage of semiconductors is likely to force carmakers to reduce their production.
The IHS Markit Poland Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 51.9 in January. Most indicators that form the composite figure reflected positive signals. The only negative component was manufacturing output, which registered a negative movement, as a result of supply constraints.
Domestic hot rolled coil prices increased further in February by approximately five percent. However, many buyers believe that the peak is near. Flat product inventories remain under pressure. Many distributors are focusing on selling to key customers, rather than on generating new business opportunities. Material, due to be delivered in the second and third quarters, should help to ease stock shortages.
Purchasing managers in the Polish market are cautious about potential downward price corrections in the short-to-medium term. However, they are broadly positive in their demand projections for 2021.
Czech manufacturing strengthens
The Czech manufacturing industry made a positive start to 2021. The IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index was recorded at 57.0 in January. This is the joint-highest figure since April 2018. Meanwhile, business confidence is at its strongest since June 2018. Output grew substantially at the beginning of this year, with many companies rising to the challenge of increasing their output, despite capacity constraints in the supply chain.
In the steel sector, the availability of flat products remains tight, particularly for cold rolled and hot dipped galvanised coil. Although order backlogs at the steel mills are an ongoing problem, indications suggest that these should improve in the third quarter, at the latest.
Despite the difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic, many Czech steel buyers hold an optimistic outlook for demand in 2021.