Increased Raw Material Costs Pushing Steel Prices Upwards

22 November 2016

The recent spike in coking coal costs gave support to the European steelmakers’ determined attempts to hike strip mill product prices, in November. Mill order books are relatively healthy and delivery lead times remain extended, although buyers seem less worried about availability, now, according to MEPS International.
The proposed rises continue to be accepted, at least in part, but service centres are concerned because their customers are progressively more reluctant to accept higher prices. Trade defence measures, on both hot and cold rolled coil, together with higher prices demanded by many overseas suppliers, continue to restrict import volumes.
German manufacturing output is good, leading to solid steel demand. However, buyers complain that the improvement is not sufficient to justify current mill price hike proposals. German service centres are not fully recouping the steelmakers’ increases. Nevertheless, strip mill product basis values continue to advance as a result of restricted supply and extended delivery lead times. Buyers expect that steel will become more expensive as mill costs surge but are not convinced that producers will achieve their target figures.
Even though there is little change in French activity levels, prices continue to strengthen. Producers are looking to implement further increases. The auto industry is boosting demand, whilst the lack of imports limits supply. Mill delivery lead times stretch to the end of January. Buyers report that availability is constrained.
Activity in the Italian market is sluggish, with the exception of the vehicle manufacturing sector, which is running well. However, tight supply, resulting from a dearth of imported material, together with delayed deliveries from European mills, continues to force basis values up. Service centres cannot pass on the full amount of the hikes to end-users, which is limiting their profitability.
Significant upward price movements were noted in the UK, for February shipments. Buyers expect similar increases when March negotiations are concluded. Delivery lead times are long and there is a lack of competition from third country sources. Moreover, the pound sterling is weak. Distributors report good sales activity in October, with November starting well. The majority of service centres state that they continue to apply the mill increases to resale values. Stock levels remain low due to supply shortfalls.
Belgian demand is brisk. Domestic steelmakers have full order books, with very little competition from overseas suppliers. Prices continue on an upward trend. European producers appear confident that further increases can be secured. Deliveries are already into January/February 2017.
Spanish manufacturing output continued to grow, in October. Steel demand is relatively stable with great expectations for public investment now that a new government has, finally, been established. Service centre sales volumes are at an acceptable level but difficulties occur when distributors try to translate mill increases into the marketplace.
Inventory levels are normal-to-low. Ongoing constrained supply led to higher basis numbers, in November. European producers wish to implement further increases. Competitively-priced products, from third country sources not affected by the current antidumping measures, have been purchased, for arrival February 2017. New offers from overseas are more expensive.