Short Range Outlook : March 2024

No improvement in supply-demand balance in global longs market, Asian exports may surge

The supply and demand balance in the global long steel products market has not improved compared to previous months. Unfortunately, the positive expectations after the Chinese New Year holidays have not materialized. It seems Chinese exporters will continue to be aggressive, which of course will also drive other Asian exporters (Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and South Korea) to adopt a similar stance. If we look at the EU import statistics, we see a massive shift towards Asian suppliers. On the other hand, demand is not picking up as the market had anticipated or hoped, which puts pressure on both prices and production. However, the markets still hold positive hopes for the second half of the year.

Chinese real estate sector in deep trouble, Chinese exports may surge again

Two major Chinese developers, namely, Evergrande and Country Garden, are in deep financial trouble. There are some worrying rumours of infrastructure projects being cancelled due to the lack of funding. Iron ore with 62 percent Fe content is trading at around €116/mt and coke prices have dropped as well. This weakening of raw material costs brings many mills in China into positive territory. The pressure on Chinese long product mills is mounting and, if the rumours of the cancellation of infrastructure projects materialize, this could cause a surge in Chinese exports, supported by reduced raw material costs.

EU market very quiet amid reduced residential construction in northern Europe

The EU market is very quiet as residential construction has declined substantially in northern Europe. There is very little activity and prices from domestic mills are as stable as a rock. There is some increase in imports including unusual origins such as China, Oman and the UAE. Other sources are not able to compete with domestic offers.

Situation unchanged in US but higher interest rates a problem

As for the US, the situation is unchanged. However, the earlier optimism that the interest rates would come down sooner has vanished. Commercial and residential construction has not picked up and any improvement will have to wait until the summer. Government-funded projects were also affected by the lockdown of finances by the House of Representatives, which have just been released. There are discussions about converting empty office spaces to homes to cover the home deficit, which will not help the steel industry. Auto sales are also affected by the interest rates and are flat. In short, we are on hold for the next two moves of the US Federal Reserve. Rebar prices are steady but face downward pressure with lower raw material costs. Due to higher shipping costs, imports are not as competitive. HRC prices are still on a downward trend, which is affecting all steel futures. Slow economic activity in China after the Lunar New Year holiday and the lack of prospects for a quick easing of interest rates in the US have put pressure on commodities worldwide.

Turkey struggles in markets where it was formerly dominant

Turkey is competing on many fronts. Asian, GCC and North African exporters are now exporting heavily to markets where Turkey used to be dominant.

Lower raw material prices the only good news for steel mills

Iron ore prices have hit a six-month low, while ferrous scrap is being generated in decent volumes in the US, which has meant more tonnages destined for export. In Europe, the slow economy has reduced ferrous scrap flow and also demand from the steel industry which is struggling with poor order books. The only good news for steel mills nowadays could be that the raw material prices, both for iron ore and scrap, are going down. Also, lower activity means lower volumes, reducing supply pressure on the markets.

State subsidies for climate action to be a major issue for years to come

One of the main topics for market players to discuss for years to come will be the definition of state subsidies related to climate change, because it looks like this issue will definitely be used for the next level of protection measures. 

Competition remains local or regional

Competition is still mostly local or regional rather than global due to existing protectionist measures and it is strong where such measures do not exist.

Status of markets generally unstable, outlook slow and unsatisfactory

Under such circumstances, the current status of the market can be described as unstable in many markets or stable at a low level at best. The outlook, unfortunately, is slow and unsatisfactory.




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