Short Range Outlook : February 2022

Global longs market boosted by improving demand and many positive factors

Demand is picking up in the global long steel products market after the holidays and it will be even better once the weather becomes warmer in the northern hemisphere. It seems the market is getting back to normal. Section 232 is practically over. General demand is strengthening with the pandemic possibly coming to an end. Bottlenecks seem to be easing somewhat, such as breakbulk freight rates, which have returned to more normal levels. International trade has resumed, bringing confidence to the market. Covid restrictions are being removed. At some point, automakers’ chip shortages will come to an end and this will boost car manufacturing. Market players are looking forward to seeing how raw material prices will settle this week after the Chinese holiday, though the situation so far seems to be positive.

Integrated mills still hold an advantage over their EAF-based counterparts

Steel consumption is still excellent around the world, while the ferrous scrap market has strengthened since the New Year. Input costs for both integrated and EAF-based mills have increased in a similar fashion. However, the advantage still lies with the integrated mills. The relatively high prices for ferrous scrap, along with increasing prices for non-ferrous scrap, are expected to keep the flow of obsolete scrap at elevated levels. Raw material demand is increasing and is expected to drive costs everywhere, along with energy, with EU steel producers contributing significantly to this increasing raw material demand.

Steel producers start announcing green initiatives

Global attention is shifting to steel producers announcing green initiatives, and so now we are all on a three to four-year road to change. Green changes are primarily for local and somewhat regional markets.

Spread between rebar and hot rolled flats mostly returns to historical normal level

The spread between reinforcing bar and hot rolled steel sheet in coil prices is returning to the historical normal level of less than $100/ton in every region, except the US and Canada.

Energy costs remain biggest issue facing producers

Energy is still the biggest issue nowadays facing producers and costs are double compared to the previous year with energy prices reaching all-time record high levels. Costs of raw material will also be another item to deal with. The geopolitical situation is also unstable.

Demand reasonable for EU mills, supported by mild winter weather

Demand is reasonable for EU mills as there are some serious projects in the Mediterranean region. The extremely mild winter in Europe has not interrupted construction yet. All yards are running at 100 percent and mills are nicely booked with orders. Building companies are still trying to push cut and benders down with prices, but the resistance of more and more benders gives hope that bending prices will rise very shortly. Almost every EU market is performing well, and imports are more and more regulated or are not available. Buyers have almost no option. International demand is also either going up or is strong at least, despite the winter season.

Prices soften in US, contrary to global trends

However, the situation is very different in the US from that in the rest of the world. While the rest of the world is experiencing price increases, prices in the US are still softening. Though the US market is coming from much higher prices, the further softening of prices is confusing. Demand is still strong, but the fear of further price reductions keeps distributors from making future commitments. After the EU, the lifting of the Section 232 measures from Japan may not help expectations. However, if the reduced quotas are also applied to Japan as was done in the case of the EU, the effect may be minimal. The US-EU agreement on the removal of tariffs has strengthened EU demand, though it has been a slight negative for US producers during the past month. Expectations in the US are for price stabilization soon and slow price increases to follow due to the inevitable high inflation with low interest rates.

China to produce less steel in 2022, good news for other producers

China has stopped increasing steel production and Beijing’s policy is to produce 100-150 million tons less steel in 2022 than in 2021. Steel demand is still strong in China and exports are not of real interest to them. Chinese steel exports are firmly below six million tons per month. Furthermore, the Chinese government seems to be proposing more infrastructure investments. If China does not produce as much as it did in 2021 and if exports do not increase, then all other suppliers will have the chance to export to Southeast Asian and Far Eastern markets as well. Another major positive is that, if less steel is produced, it will create a mini boom in import demand from mainland China. Also, China’s stimulus in December brought production back in line after the Evergrande debacle, which boosted sentiment.

Levels of competition are reasonable, Turkish mills struggle to compete in Asia

The levels of competition in the market are reasonable. The competition in the reinforcing bar segment is between Asian and Gulf countries as it seems that Turkish mills have difficulty competing at the buying prices seen in Asia.

Outlook very good for an overall strong market

The current status of the market can be described as very stable and strong, perhaps with the only exception of the US for the time being. The outlook is very good and satisfactory.




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