Via AG Metal Miner
A recent European Steel Association (Eurofer) report said that apparent steel consumption within the European Union is likely to improve by 5.4% in 2024. That said, the organization indicated that this figure depends on there being more favorable developments in the bloc’s industrial outlook. Either way, steel prices will likely see some impact from this potential increase.
“However, the overall evolution of steel demand remains subject to high uncertainty,” Eurofer warned in its May 3 report. “[This] is expected to continue to undermine demand from steel-using sectors at least in the first half of 2023.” The association also added that “Quarterly positive developments in apparent steel consumption are only foreseen starting from the third quarter of 2023.” Nonetheless, Eurofer noted that the apparent steel consumption outlook for 2023 points to a 1% drop.
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EU Energy Prices Declining, but Still High
In mid-May, the European Commission also reported that EU economies are likely to grow 1.4% in 2024, which could impact steel prices globally. However, inflation remains a significant challenge. Indeed, the 27-member EU experienced significant economic uncertainty in Q1 due to interest rate hikes and the subsequent lower credit availability. Europe also suffered from higher energy prices following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
According to information from Trading Economics, Benchmark Dutch TTF gas was down €27.97 ($29.89) per megawatt hour on the afternoon of June 5. Prices previously hit a €339.20 ($363.57) high on Aug. 26, but warmer-than-expected temperatures in Europe’s fall and winter, plus increased diversification of energy sources, helped bring them back down. Even so, the latest price is almost five times higher than the €5.71 ($6.11) reported on the same date in 2020.
Europe previously sourced about 40% of its gas supplies from Russia. However, Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe in retaliation for sanctions imposed on it following its invasion of Ukraine.
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Hot Rolled Coil Steel Prices Facing Import Competition
Market players recently told MetalMiner that pressure from Asian import offers continues to push down hot rolled coil prices in northern Europe. This is partly due to China overproducing steel throughout Q1 in the face of slower-than-expected growth. Reported offers for the flat-rolled product from European mills were €750 ($800) per metric ton EXW in late May for August rolling, traders said.
That price reflects an average decline of almost 27.2% year-on-year, when prices were closer to €1,030 ($1,100). Though Eurofer sounded a positive note, many analysts expect this combination of historically high energy prices, low demand, and economic uncertainty to weigh on the rest of 2023. Rolls of galvanized steel sheet in metalworking factory warehouse.
“Despite these challenging conditions, steel-using sectors’ output grew (+3.1%) also in 2022 after the post-COVID rebound (+6.7%) in 2021,” the association noted. “Growth is expected to slow down over the course of 2023 and notably drop in the second quarter, resulting in an overall limited annual increase (+0.3%). However, this is a slight improvement from the previous outlook, which foresaw a drop (-0.6%), although with wide differences among individual European economies.”
By Christopher Rivituso
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