MEPS notes varied price trends across the European steel plate market, in February. Transaction values stabilised or increased modestly, in mainland Europe. In contrast, negative price pressure was detected in the UK. Purchasing activity by distributors and service centres remains at a relatively low level.
German prices move up slowly
German commodity plate prices continued to move up slowly, in February. Demand in many end-user sectors is healthy, especially in the line-pipe business, where orders have been taken for the Baltic region and where several other projects are under discussion. Positive signs are noted in the offshore wind tower and construction industries.
Service centre inventories are now at a reasonable level, due to destocking over the course of the last few months. Nevertheless, the distributors only replace what they need for their immediate requirements. Competition from third-country suppliers has reduced. Italian rerollers also lifted their export offers to other parts of Europe.
Civil engineering buoyant in France
On the French plate market, buyers confirm that the January price rise was maintained. However, the entirety of the slab cost rise has not yet been passed on. Many producers have good order books for current production, but April/May is not so full. End-user activity is reasonable. Prospects for flame-cutters have improved, compared with those last month.
Civil engineering is buoyant due to various new projects such as Grand Paris, the 2024 Olympics, a new network of canals and the ITER energy prototype plant in the south of the country. However, service centres are only purchasing minimum quantities, at any one time. Material from South Korea and Indonesia is available from stock, at the port of Antwerp, but prices are relatively uncompetitive.
Italian rerollers implement rises
Italian domestic demand is lacklustre. Service centres and end-users have limited business, purchasing only what is urgently needed. However, slab costs continue to escalate. The rerollers successfully implemented a further modest rise to domestic customers, during recent negotiations.
Prices under negative pressure in the UK
The UK market, for commodity grade material, remains relatively weak, with domestic prices under negative pressure. High specifications have also been hit. The offshore sector is significantly underperforming. Demand from construction and boilermakers is healthy. Service centre inventories have declined. However, resale margins continue to be squeezed, as a result of strong competition in the distribution sector.
Source: MEPS European Steel Review