Short Range Outlook : September 2021

Supply and demand balancing out in global longs market, freight still incredibly high

In the global long steel products market, there are signs that supply has caught up with demand and that the supply-demand balance is becoming more neutral. The market seems to be getting back to normal in terms of lead times, prices, etc. We are now in a period where things have to get back to normal, which in fact may be different from where it all started. A price range higher than the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2020 will probably be the new normal. On the other hand freight rates are still incredibly high.

…but Section 232 and EU safeguards still in place

The supply-demand balance seems to be back on track, but of course with the caveat that Section 232 is still in force as well as the EU safeguards, which make supply in both places shorter than necessary. The protected markets will continue enjoying their positions until the measures in question are terminated.

Slowdown in Far East a blow to the global longs market

We should also be following the Southeast Asian and Far Eastern markets. The slowdown in the Far East has dealt the market a strong body blow. The Asian markets are making adjustments, but most would say that everyone is happy over there. The Indian and Vietnamese mills are exporting, while new plants in Indonesia as well as the Japanese mills are making historic profits. South Korean mills most likely will do the same. The Russian mills located close to the ports are still paying their export tax and continuing to export.

EU cut and benders face rising stocks

The stocks of the cut and benders in the EU are being filled up more and more and a number of projects are being put on hold or being delayed due to the high prices for all sorts of construction materials including deformed reinforcing bars. The cut and benders are feeling a significant drop in order income and are holding their breaths to see how the EU mills will react to fewer order entries. But with the holidays ending, stronger demand is expected before the winter starts. As a result, no meaningful drop in EU mills’ prices is expected, especially due to the lack of alternatives from imports. Most of the cut and benders have been managing the drastic price increases so far and low-priced projects are fading out.

Supply seems to be catching up with demand in US market also, imports still difficult

Demand in the US is high, but supply seems to be catching up with the demand in this market as well. There are still some shortages, especially on the West Coast.  However, it is difficult for imports to fill the demand shortages due to shipping constraints. With the erratic and historic high shipping prices, most mills prefer to offer on FOB basis. Importers who buy on FOB basis on all occasions are in for a surprise when cargoes are ready to ship. To add to the problem, most ports are full and do not wish to receive more cargoes. Especially for rain-sensitive cargoes, indoor storage space hardly exists. With all these high prices, credit has become an issue for importers. Hardly any buyers have full credit to insure the receivables.

Freight rates out of touch with reality, no one wants to book on FOB basis

Freight is a major factor nowadays. Even for the traditional routes, freight rates have lost touch with reality. Traders have been punished by the high and unpredictable freight costs and are now careful as regards new business. No one wants to book on FOB basis. It is getting more and more difficult to get a quotation, which makes it difficult and/or risky to offer on CFR basis as well. This situation will create short-term downward pressure on prices and long-term shortages in importing countries. Regionalization is the current trend as sea freights are exceptionally high.

China’s steel output restrictions may buoy up steel pricing

China’s restrictions on steel production at 2020 levels will mean stronger Chinese demand for semi-finished steel imports, which should support other regions, especially ASEAN producers. It could also buoy up steel pricing. China’s announcement of production cuts is welcome amid environmental concerns and may support worldwide billet prices, but it may also put further pressure on ferrous scrap prices due to less demand. Most Chinese production is based on iron ore and has already gone down a notch, and so the impact on ferrous scrap may be limited.

Europe impresses with steel production performance in January-July

European steel production strengthened during the first seven months of the year at a stronger pace than production in many other regions. Scrap demand in the intra-European market has been stronger than normal, and this situation seems set to continue for the coming quarter. Semiconductor and component shortages continue to weigh on industry. Supply of higher quality scrap grades and industrial scrap has become tighter.

Coronavirus vaccinations should support demand levels

Although the number of Covid cases is still high and we are again entering the season of colder weather in the northern hemisphere, the post-pandemic rebound and reopening are continuing despite setbacks due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The vaccination process will surely allow us to continue with our daily lives and so demand should continue.

Insurance becomes an issue due to increased value of cargoes

Demand is still good and mills are booked for the next few months. Moreover, huge investments are on their way. Payments seem not to be a problem even though insurance is becoming an issue simply because the value of cargoes has reached very high levels.

Future looks promising due to planned infrastructure investments worldwide

Almost all countries are looking at some type of stimulus plan, with infrastructure being high on the list as it is the easy choice. Money is easy to print for the US and the EU, while all others have to borrow at somewhat reduced rates. Stimulus money is still flowing and infrastructure spending in particular looks to continue for several years in the EU/ UK and North America.  Nevertheless, the future looks promising for infrastructure investors. It is also a good time to be melting domestic scrap and selling long products regionally.

Competition starts to normalize

The competition in the market is also expected to get back to normal, with demand reaching pre-pandemic levels. There is strong competition between Turkish long product exports to Asia and Asian-produced material. Otherwise, competition is normal and acceptable. As for the ferrous scrap market, there is regionalization and competition is strong in general,

Overall situation stable in global longs market

Overall, the current situation in the global long steel products market can be defined as stable and perfect to proceed, with some fluctuations here and there.

Satisfactory outlook for next quarter in EU, some price cuts possible in North America

For the most part, there is very little steel to be sold during September, October, November and December. The outlook for the next quarter is satisfactory in the EU, as for the ferrous scrap market. However, some downward adjustments in the North American market may be seen and negativism is bound to spread and may affect other markets. Accordingly, it may be time to wait and see or to proceed with caution in some markets.




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