Steel price developments: opinions differ on whether the current level will be maintained

Import volumes of basic steel (ST37 style for construction) into the EU rose sharply in the 3rd quarter. This massive influx of rolled material from Russia, India, Vietnam – but not from China, which has reduced its capacity – attracted by the high price level in Europe is a first threat to the high price policy that the major European steel producers are currently pursuing. They want the current price level to be maintained as much as possible, but this may prove more difficult for these basic steels.

It is not only these higher import volumes than in previous months that are putting pressure on market prices due to the reduced scarcity of basic steel, but there are also other factors that are causing a downward price trend.

First of all, there are the major problems faced by car manufacturers in the embarrassing shortage of semiconductors. In August alone, EU production was down by 19% compared to August 2020. This affects not only steel sales to carmakers themselves, but also to their suppliers. For the time being, no solution to this problem can be expected in the foreseeable future and the sector’s need for steel will therefore not improve immediately.

In the meantime, steel mills continue to produce their orders from the automotive industry, which means that stocks are increasing at the above-mentioned distributors.

In addition, the steel market is faced with stable to slightly falling scrap prices and a drop in iron ore prices in recent weeks. This is due to the decrease in production capacity that has been implemented in China. The Chinese government has decided that total steel production in 2021 should not exceed that of the previous year. This decrease in production has had an influence on the demand for ore, the price of which has fallen in the last month.

On the other hand, the largest mills in the EU claim to be full for this year, although the smaller mills in Central Europe are still offering some tonnage here and there for delivery in November-December. In Belgium and Germany, mills produced less steel in Q1, Q2 and Q3 consciously or due to technical or maintenance problems, which also increased scarcity.

However, these elements only concern basic steels. It should be noted that the more specific materials, which are in greater demand, such as precision steels, galvais, stainless steels and spring steels, remain rare and in short supply. Suppliers and intermediary resellers do not see an immediate decrease in the shortage and therefore in prices. Moreover, as soon as the current slump in the automotive sector has subsided, tensions could increase again.

The experts’ opinions on the price development vary considerably on this subject. Some experts believe that we will see lower prices during this month and next, but that an upward trend is to be expected thereafter. Others believe the opposite, that the boom in price rises is definitely over and that a downturn will follow in which the base price will fall.

There are arguments for and against both views. There are many ongoing developments that could affect the steel price: How much further will the economy grow? When will car production increase again? Will the EU import quota system be revised or not? Will European domestic steel production increase or stabilise? Will iron ore prices fall again or not? Will there also be a possible rise in interest rates, which could negatively affect the willingness to invest?

This means that it is difficult at present to make a clear prediction on the expected price development, but we should certainly not count on a price decrease in the short term, especially for non-basic steel.

The pressure on delivery times has not abated either and there are no indications that the current situation will change in the short term.

Filame therefore recommends that its customers carefully plan their requests for the production of parts taking into account the delivery times of the material and to possibly have price adaptations according to the time of delivery of the material, especially as no supplier currently commits to prices over several days and that for stainless steel the price of the alloy surcharge is that of the day of delivery of the material.

Summary of Noviostaal – het staaljournaal September and Filame supplier reviews

The prices of raw materials, delivery times and Filame’s recommendations

The prices of raw materials (steels, stainless steel, aluminum and special alloys) continue to increase and delivery times are getting longer. What should we expect and what are Filame’s recommendations?

Since the 3rd quarter of 2020 the price of raw materials, whether steels, stainless steel, aluminum, special alloys, have increased significantly. At the same time, delivery times have grown considerably.

We ask our customers to pay attention to the recommendations that Filame makes at the end of this newsletter. Indeed, the most recent projections given by all industry players show that this situation is not going to end.

Price increase

The following chart for hot-rolled steels shows the extent of the increase.

In terms of stainless steel, the alloy surcharge (that is to say the cost of the share of nickel and chromium) which varies every month is also increasing sharply, which means that the prices of stainless steel, in all qualities reached record levels.

The forecasts for August and September show a persistent increase.

In this regard, it must be taken into account that the price of the alloy extra is that of the month of delivery. Between order and delivery, there may therefore be price increases that manufacturers will have to pass on.

These price increases are also caused by the strong dependence of European markets on Asian producers and the situation prevailing in these markets. Taiwan, Korea and China no longer export or almost no longer export stainless steel to Europe and stocks of European producers are at their lowest (see details in New Letter from nova Trading attached).

Delivery times

Delivery times have become extremely long. For stainless steel, most producers are already not accepting orders for 2021.

Added to this is the increased delays in container shipments from Asia (in addition to the increase in the price of such shipments). For these reasons, it is not uncommon to see delivery delays or even cancellations by some producers or distributors.

Special alloys, such as aluminized steel, Inconel, Nimonic, Elgiloy are very difficult to obtain. For more details, see the Nova Trading Newsletter below.

Filame recommendations

Filame makes every effort to try to satisfy its customers to the best of its ability according to the availability of its stocks and those of its suppliers. To mitigate the effects of the situation Filame has developed a very large supplier base for both the most common steels and stainless steels. But the inventory status at suppliers is extremely low and it is not always easy to find material within acceptable deadlines.

Filame cannot currently guarantee either the delivery times requested by its customers or the maintenance of prices from one order to another or from one month to the next. In particular, Filame will be obliged to pass on the increase in material costs according to the stocks of material that it can find on the market and the prices obtained from its suppliers.

Filame asks its customers to send their order forecasts sufficiently in advance to allow them time to find the material necessary to meet their needs, while avoiding over-ordering in order not to worsen the overall situation. Filame asks her clients not to hesitate to contact her so that together we can analyze the situation and the best way to act.

Filame also recommends that its customers order promptly after receiving an offer to avoid a price increase between the time of the offer and the time of ordering. The delivery times indicated in an offer are given to the best of Filame’s estimates but cannot currently be considered as a firm commitment.

This is a never-before-seen situation that all contractors like Filame face and which is beyond their control. We regularly publish on our website (www.filame.com) and on our Linkedin page (do not hesitate to follow us on this page) news relating to the development of this situation.

Nova Trading Newsletter

Nova Trading News – EN – 06 07 2021