Short Range Outlook : April 2022

War in Ukraine a major gamechanger for global longs market

The war in Ukraine has changed sentiment in the global long steel products market as well as fundamentally altering the flow of raw materials and finished products almost overnight. There is more demand than secure supply in the market. Before the war, the expectations were that demand would determine the direction of prices, contrary to 2021 when supply was the driving factor. Today, however, supply has definitely taken the lead again and the market is in fact distorted.

Sanctions on Russia to continue for some time to come

Hot rolled coil prices ex-China are lower than slab prices, which in turn are lower than prices of basic pig iron. We hear of a new set of sanctions every day, for different targets using different means, issued by different countries, besides which the payment side is totally confused. There are many different ways of approaching the sanctions. Disruptions of supplies of semi-finished and finished products have opened new opportunities for others, especially for Turkish mills who share the same geographical region. However, nobody has any clue how far this madness will go, but one thing is for sure: the sanctions on Russia will remain in place for some time to come.

Price imbalance emerges between Asia and rest of world, European prices the highest

The Western hemisphere has stable demand with short supply depending on the product. There is stable demand also in the Eastern hemisphere, but the strong presence of Chinese and Southeast Asian producers results in a price difference between these two regions. Consequently, there is a price imbalance between Asia and the rest of the world. The difference between Turkish origin reinforcing bar and wire rod prices and Chinese, Vietnamese or Malaysian origin reinforcing bar and wire rod prices is more than US$100 per ton. The price difference between the North American and the EU/UK markets is even greater. International markets are becoming more regional than ever. European steel prices are now the highest in the world. Asian and especially Chinese prices are substantially lower than anywhere else. The steel trade is changing direction from selling to Asia to buying from Asia.

New destinations sought for Russian raw materials and semi-finished products

Russian raw material and semi-finished products are searching for destinations that are willing to import and at new discounted prices. It seems that Russian finished products are not being exported yet at all.

Demand and prices increase in EU amid reduction of mills’ capacity utilization

EU mills are concerned how all these disruptions will impact their production and are not willing to make any long-term commitments. Sales from stocks on a daily basis are becoming fashionable and the market has no other option but to accept this situation. The reduction of capacity utilization rates and the fears of stoppages by some mills are resulting in higher demand from the market than usual, as construction companies want to secure material for their projects. Prices have increased significantly with the lack of import options supporting the upward movement. Brussels is not ready to lift its safeguard measures despite strong protests from downstream industry.

Supply and demand stable in the US

Demand in the US is the same and supply from domestic producers has not changed either. However, considering the fact that the mills are running at full capacity, it is fair to expect that any increase in demand will have to be compensated for by imports. Import restrictions and therefore prices from regular suppliers have increased dramatically due to the war in Ukraine. With this, the prices in the US are also on an upward trend, catching up with the rest of the world.

Lower capacity utilizations and shutdowns in EU make more scrap available for Turkey

Scrap exports from Russia and Ukraine are almost at a standstill. However, EU steel mills have refused to pay more for scrap and have reduced their capacity utilization rates. There have even been complete shutdowns in some cases, creating extra supply of scrap in the market for Turkish mills. As a result, the Turkish mills have compensated for the missing quantities from Russia and Ukraine by the extra availability of European scrap, which has helped them keep scrap prices under control while at the same time they are exporting extra volumes of steel to the EU market.

New opportunities but also imbalances created by absence of Ukraine and Russia

The sudden disappearance of two major steel supplying countries in the global market has suddenly changed the supply and demand balance in favour of suppliers in other countries. The spread between raw material to product has become much bigger than predicted at the beginning of the year. The situation certainly creates many new opportunities but also major imbalances.

Competition from Asian mills increases gradually

Competition in the market is very regionalized, except for some products suffering from the impact of the conflict. The traditional competition from CIS-based and European mills has disappeared. The new competition, which has been slowly appearing, is from Asian mills.

Some weeks needed for unstable market to find equilibrium, outlook still very uncertain

Scrap price increases will continue, but the war is a major negative factor for the market. It will take some weeks for the market to find its equilibrium. Under the current circumstances, the market can be described as fluctuating and unstable. The outlook is very uncertain as the fundamentals may change daily.




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