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Plentiful supply keeps EU steel prices in check

Trading volumes of flat products have been slow since Meps’ April research due to a number of Easter and Labour Day holidays in Western Europe. Only minor price changes have been noted.

However, overcapacity, negative sentiment and increasing third country competition persist, enabling buyers to resist mill efforts to impose increases and, in some instances, to win small discounts. Nevertheless, macroeconomic forecasts are optimistic in several countries, encouraging producers to slightly raise some of their offers.
Strip mill product prices have weakened slightly in Germany, despite a relatively healthy business climate and improved consumer confidence. Supply and demand are out of balance. The market is being targeted by producers in other EU countries, where demand is less robust. Customers feel that steelmakers’ talk of price rises is just wishful thinking. Service centres, uncertain of market developments, continue to keep stocks low. Resale values are poor.
Activity has remained subdued in France, partly due to the Easter break and two public holiday weekends at the beginning of May. Producers have stabilised market prices and even raised some of their offers by €5/10 per tonne but buyers believe the outlook remains uncertain. End-user demand on distributors is muted and resale values are dismal.
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The Italian market has been particularly quiet because of a large number of holidays over the last month. Despite several announcements by steelmakers, who are still officially proposing increases, basis figures have not picked up. However, generally, they have stabilised, although the mills are ready to negotiate if presented with a large, firm order. 
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UK basis figures appear to have bottomed out. However, the mills’ attempts to instigate a rise were totally unsuccessful. Service centres report that demand is holding up and that prices do not reflect the reasonably healthy market. Clearly, there is an issue regarding the exchange rate which is creating a favourable situation for overseas suppliers from mainland Europe and further afield. 
Meps has noted very little price movement in Belgium, where activity levels are flat. Business, overall, is quiet with several end-users experiencing payment difficulties. Market participants foresee no change until the autumn. In Spain, steelmakers have stopped demanding their proposed €20 per tonne hike. There has been some recovery in demand, albeit only small. Inventories at the distributors are slightly higher than necessary, so buyers are in no hurry to purchase more material, especially as the summer holidays are approaching.

Source: Meps

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