Q1 2021 EU steel prices reflect growing demand for steel stemmed from European manufacturing sector’s rapid recovery, and increasingly limited steel supplies.
Q1 2021 EU PMI Growth Fueled Demand for Steel
The European Manufacturing Purchasing Index published by IHS Markit highlighted the Eurozone’s manufacturing growth at unprecedented rates in March. Production growth expansion surpassed pre-pandemic levels, fueling the demand for steel from steel-using sectors.
In Q1 2021, EU manufacturing sector (Purchasing Manager’s Index) showed strong signs of recovery as Germany’s PMI index hit 66.6, surpassing the expected rate of 60.5, and reaching the highest level since 1996. France’s PMI index also beat the expectations as the country’s manufacturing PMI reached 58.8. Since H2 2020, demand for steel has been growing in line with manufacturing sectors’ recovery in EU steel market. On the other hand, steel production could not catch up with the demand in several countries, pushing steel prices higher.
Germany’s crude steel production decreased by 8.4% to 6,40 million tons in January – February period, according to Wirtschaftsvereinigung Stahl. Hot rolled coil production in Germany was down 5.9% to 2.78 million tons in February (immibhaber.org)
Italian crude steel production continued to grow in early 2021. Italian crude steel production reached 3.9 million tons, pointing out to 1.2% year-over-year increase. Although flat steel production experienced 0.8% decrease, Italian long steel production jumped 7.3% to 2.1 million tons in February 2021.
Why did European Hot Rolled Coils’ Price Increase in Q1 2021?
Price hikes are result of limited HRC supplies and long lead times in Q1 2021 EU steel market conditions. European hot rolled coil prices continued to increase in Q1 2021, reaching €790 – 820 per ton. Shortage of HRC supplies in Italy is attributed to ArcelorMittal Italia’s lower steel coil production, Kallanish reported. ArcelorMittal increased its HRC prices twice in March, aiming for a price range between €830 – 840 per ton. HRC prices in Northern Europe reached €850, whereas HRC price in Italy increased to €820 in March 2021. Scarcity in steel supplies will continue into Q3 2021, which will lead to further increase in steel prices in Europe according to SteelOrbis’ sources.
ArcelorMittal increased its flat steel price the second time in March 2021. In mid-March, company’s flat steel prices were €50 higher compared to the price on 5th of March 2021, reaching €850 per ton. ArcelorMittal’s cold rolled coil price had the same price increase, reaching €950 per ton. Company’s galvanized steel price averaged €940 during the same period. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find hot rolled coils below $800 per ton in Q1 2021 EU steel market, according to SteelOrbis’ sources. Italian rebars jumped €30 in the last week of March, 12 mm B450C rebars reached €595 per ton.
At the end of Q4 2020, the average price of hot rolled coils in Europe ranged between €770 – 880 per ton. Regional scarcity’s continuation into Q2 2020 has the potential to push EU HRC prices to increase further due to limited supplies’ pressure on the price elasticity.
Increase in transportation fees result in the imported steel prices to fluctuate based on the location in Europe. Price of exported HRC from India to Southern Italy reached $900 per ton, approximately $10 cheaper than those delivered in Belgium. Imported HRC shipments from Vietnam to EU countries followed the same trend. In late March, hot rolled coil order shipments were set to be delivered in July, according to a Turkish Steel Exporters Association’s newsletter dated 25th of March 2021.
What to Expect from EU Steel Market 2021’s Near Future?
EU manufacturing sector’s rapid recovery, coupled with increasing price of steel put EU’s steel anti-dumping measures under the spotlight. EU’s steel quotas are due to be reviewed by the European Commission in June 2021. Steel price increases, due to limited supplies, may push the current EU steel quotas to be reviewed parallel to manufacturing sector’s rapid growth.
EUROMETAL recently urged ETC to consider two approaches for the current steel quotas’ revision. These approaches involve taking pricing from last 18 months period and remaining available stocks at the ports into account for steel quota planning. The federation believes EU steel market in 2021 can be more competitive in line with steel-using sectors’ needs with their recommendation.
According to a BloombergHT interview with Turkish Steel Exporters Association’s President Uğur Dalbeler, European steel prices will normalize in second half of 2021. Since EU countries are ramping their steel production, 2021 European steel market prices will fluctuate less frequently.
ArcelorMittal Europe warned steel-users that higher cost of steel production may push EU steel prices up by 60% after sustainable production transition is complete in the future. Green transition investments are expected to save five million tons of CO2 per year according to ArcelorMittal’s CEO Geert Van Poelvoorde.