The European steel coil market was set to see higher prices early in 2021, with EU mills sold out until the second quarter and lead times extending as far out as May.
Hot-rolled coil, cold-rolled coil and hot-dipped galvanized products have become difficult to acquire, with buyers who once relied primarily on imported material now seeking orders from domestic sellers.
While Indian players were offering HRC at Eur685/mt ($840/mt) CIF Italy ports and CRC at Eur780/mt CIF Antwerp, long delivery times and the European Commission’s anti-dumping investigation against Turkey has seen cautious buyers hesitate in taking foreign material.
HRC spot prices were expected to touch Eur700/mt by mid-Q1, sources said, even though increased offers from ArcelorMittal in December saw HRC hit a nine-year high.
Mills had been pushing to finalize deals ahead of the year-end break in order to capitalize on the forward pricing momentum, sources said, with mill-side players confronted with a backlog of requests from customers eager to book material at prevailing prices.
The supply tightness facing the EU steel market was initially a result of coronavirus pandemic-induced production cuts in March, followed by unexpected automotive demand that mills have struggled to accommodate and — to some extent — found difficult to understand given the lack of customer demand for cars.
Approximately 31 million mt of blast furnace capacity was idled during the first wave of the pandemic, with just 8 million mt having restarted in September, according to data from UBS.