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European Market Gathering Strength

/ Just before the Easter metallurgical companies raised HRC prices  to about 530-550 euro per ton EXW and some manufacturers increased the prices even up to 570 euro per ton EXW. Plate quotations reached 580-620 per ton EXW. CRC were offered at 620-650 euro per ton EXW. According to the traders’ estimations real market prices were  by 20-40 euro per ton lower than the abovementioned levels. Nevertheless European metallurgists are likely to  prepare another  increase.  As per some sources, the prices for HR steel in the second half of April can  increase  to  600 euro ($804) per ton EXW, and  CR steel  - to 700 euro ($938) per ton. From one hand, the current market situation does not justify such a jump. Against Eastern Asia countries and even the USA Europe looks a depressive region.  Economical growth in the EU countries in the Q4 2009 was  null and comparing with the similar period of 2009 there was a 2.3% fall. Even the optimists forecast the GDP increase in the EU countries in 2010 not more than 0.5-0.7%.  The average deficit of the state budget 7-7.5 % in  the current year  means the strict economy policy and further cut of state investments.  European loan market has not been unblocked as well. The financing remains the problem for many companies of the region, especially for small ones. The exclusions like German automotive industry are insignificant against the general situation. Besides, the specialists concern that  after the termination of the state stimulating  programs the demand for cars will fall. In particular, the CEO of Fiat, Sergio Marchionne said that the European automobile market can decrease in 2010 by 15%.

In this connection the demand for steel products in Europe remains rather low. Rolled steel prices boost in March  almost did not affect the buying activity in April, unlike the USA and Middle East.  Some companies, as earlier, do not want to make the stockpiles; others can not do that  due to the lack of current capital.  Nevertheless there are no counteractions to the prices increase. Moreover, steel manufacturers connect their actions with the objective factor such as raw materials costs growth.  It is interesting that  the regional association  ACEA which unites all European cars manufacturers did not object to the steel products prices increase but supported Eurofer, when it provided the claim for iron ore prices increase.

The absence of the excessive supply helps European metallurgists. The manufacturers, having returned some capacities in late 2009, refused further  output increase.  The volumes of import form other regions are insignificant and in terms of price imported products are not competitive with the local  ones. Thus Russian companies offer HRC at  $700-710 (about 522-530 euro) per ton FOB and Chinese companies -at  $780 (582 euro) per ton CFR with the delivery in June - July.

So, we can assume that European companies will be able to increase the prices in April again, although to the level lower than they wish. However, low demand in the nearest months will remain the soft point of European steel market.  Many specialists continue to forecast the fall in the beginning of summer.

Apr 15, 2010 09:39
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