Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Will increased supply undermine steel prices?

The latest MEPS report echoes fears that we currently have regarding Steel Prices :-

Transaction prices for most steel products increased in September in northern Europe. Producers have restricted their output since the onset of the international financial crisis, while stockists and end-users have reduced their inventories to a minimum. Delivery lead-times have increased as the steel makers’ reduced capacities have become full.
Now, as customers return to more regular purchasing to maintain their stock levels, the supply situation for many items has become tight and producers have been able to command higher selling values. This is particularly true in the case of galvanised sheet and coil, where the more complex production process means it will take longer to return volume to the supply chain. Long products prices have also been inflated by increased scrap costs – supported, as is often the case, by demand from Turkish mills.
Many of the major producers in Europe have seen the opportunity, with order tonnages and prices increasing, to reinstate some of their production capacity. Several blast furnaces have been re-lit in recent months and at least half a dozen more are planned to restart before the end of 2009.
Meanwhile, a situation of oversupply has developed in the massive Chinese market. Russian producers rely heavily on this outlet for their material and are likely to seek alternative customers in northern and western Europe.
While the demand on European mills has certainly increased, it is driven by a re-balancing of inventories within the supply chain, rather than by any upturn in end-user consumption. Government measures have not, so far, led to significant improvements in construction activity and the unproductive winter period in that sector in the Nordic countries will be upon us all too soon. Oil prices have not been sustained at a sufficient level to encourage extra investment in that field. The relative recovery in car production is likely to be slowed by the ending of some state car scrappage schemes. The reported increased economic growth recently reported in a few countries will take time to filter through to consumer spending.
Steel production in Europe through most of 2009 has been cut back more than the reduction in real demand. Without doubt, the market can stand an increase in output while inventories are replenished and this would not prevent further price hikes in the short term. However, there is a concern that supply may escalate too quickly and we already have reports of buyers holding back in anticipation of lower values before the end of this year.

Source: MEPS European Steel Review Supplement

We know that many users and service centres have “held off” ordering steel, and that inventories are now very low or depleted. This has lead to an increase in demand as stock has fell to levels insufficient to support even modest production. As stocks are replenished it is unlikely unless we see significant increase in “real” demand that there will be many orders to place toward the end of the year. This will put pressure on the recent price increases.

Additionally Steel Guru are reporting that after an sharp increase in production in China and a fall in demand there, traders attracted to a high value Euro are beginning to offer export material at increased levels.



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