Short Range Outlook : August 2023

General slowdown in global longs market puts producers under pressure 

The global long steel products market is slowing down in general, which is putting pressure on producers. Demand for reinforcing bars and wire rods remains very weak and there is strong pressure on prices from the new exporters – Algeria, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia – who are in the market with very aggressive offers.

Business still stagnant in US, high interest rates a major factor 

Business in the US is still stagnant. Demand has slowed down and supply is the same, putting pressure on prices. High interest rates constitute the biggest factor in the slowdown of both commercial and residential construction. The US Federal Reserve’s efforts to keep inflation under control are working, while slowing down the economy. Flat steel prices are still under pressure, with flats mainly supplied from domestic sources.

Non-traditional sources active in exports, Turkey struggles due to trade measures 

Exports are only active from non-traditional sources like Algeria and Egypt, which are subject to no antidumping or countervailing duty measures so far. Turkey has been unfairly hit with high antidumping duty, when one mill honored a contract made before the Ukrainian war and delivered as pledged, even after the surge in prices. All Turkish mills (except one) were conveniently painted with the same brush.

New US and EU measures target Russian exports of semis and raw materials 

It seems that the situation in Ukraine will be a never-ending story. However, the new restrictions to be introduced by the US and the EU will create more complications for producers who import Russian semis and raw materials and export their goods to the US and the EU, namely, Turkey and Egypt. The EU is already demanding a declaration from producers confirming no Russian input for goods that are shipped into the EU. US officials are paying visits to individual companies explaining the risks of not cutting ties with Russia. We will witness more circumvention cases in the coming period. The halting of Russian steel imports in six weeks’ time into the EU should have a significant impact. It is difficult to prevail in defensive cases, which may cause Turkey to strongly reduce imports from Russia.

US and EU to produce less steel in 2023 than in 2022 

Both the US and the EU will produce less steel in 2023 than in 2022.  In the US, flat product output is down five percent year to date, while domestic long product output is down even more.

Europe very quiet due to holidays, private sector investors lack confidence 

Europe has been very quiet over the last few weeks due to the holidays. Prices are very flat and there are no signs of improvement in sight. The main reason is low activity and low ordering from the market. Mills are fighting for every ton which is available. Overcapacities in the EU are preventing mills from raising prices. Imports are practically non-existent right now as one can see from the safeguard import statistics. All EU countries are trying to avoid a recession by injecting money into the economy, but the private sector is afraid due to all the uncertainties surrounding energy prices, interest rates and additional burdens which may come from Brussels in relation to CO2 emissions. All these uncertainties are holding the private sector back from investing.

Strong domestic construction in Russia restrains its exports 

Russia is experiencing strong growth in its domestic construction sector and so it is not so hungry for exports.

Stimulus packages in China have no impact on its exports 

So far, all stimulus packages introduced in China have had no impact on exports that affects global steel prices. China’s BOFs are working at over 90 percent capacity utilization and EAFs at under 50 percent.

Scrap demand falls amid reduced steel outputs, scrap prices hold firm 

Slowing production has also led to lower ferrous scrap demand. European demand is expected to contract in the coming quarter. Although demand is slowing down for scrap also, inflows are dropping for scrap traders. Availability is low and this is exerting pressure on recyclers to get material to their yards and shredders. Scrap prices are still holding firm, mainly because suppliers are much more organized. They may stay around the mid-$300s/mt unless demand for reinforcing bar falls further. India seems to have a weak domestic market, but, on the other hand, it is paying top bucks for scrap, which supports scrap at the mid-$300s/mt.

Some new projects in Europe, Turkey and S. Arabia to provide support 

There are a number of projects coming on stream in Europe and Turkey. There is also the NEOM city project in Saudi Arabia, with demand for a huge quantity of reinforcing bars which is supposed to come on stream shortly.

Freight costs lower but still higher than before pandemic, clean energy an issue for steel sector 

Raw material prices are softening a little and shipping prices are coming down but are still higher than pre-pandemic prices. New policies on carbon emission limitations and clean energy will be a problem for the steel industry in the future. Ironically, a lot of Chinese “clean” energy technology is made in factories using coal-powered electricity. Clean energy technology should come from clean supply chains, though cheap Chinese inputs such as polysilicon for solar panels and critical minerals for batteries are often made or extracted by cheap labor in other parts of the world.

US still a locomotive of the global economy 

The US economy and US industrial orders are still the locomotive of the global economy. Electricity prices have also lessened since last year’s fluctuations. Inflation no longer seems a threat and in general autumn is expected to be better than the first seven months of 2023.

International competition weak amid low prices and high logistics costs 

International competition in the market is weak because prices are so low that logistics are killing trade. There is almost no international competition. Otherwise, the competition is for volumes, not to increase them or simply to keep them stable, but rather to limit the slide in volumes as much as possible. Imports are dropping in North America and the EU, which of course affects the MENA region and Latin America.

Current market status unstable, outlook unsatisfactory except for scrap suppliers 

Under these circumstances, the current status of the market can be described as unstable and unpredictable. The outlook for the next quarter is mostly unstable and unsatisfactory, except for ferrous scrap suppliers.




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