prices across the globe continued trending downwards in May. Selling figures declined in 24 of the 28 nations in which Sheffield based market analysts, MEPS conducts research. In the remaining four countries, transaction values were stable.

Excess supply and poor demand are expected to continue to exert negative pressure on prices in the short term. Moreover, input expenditure is likely to remain at a low level in the immediate future.

North American flat product transaction values continue to decline. Overall demand has not changed and remains weak. Availability is more than ample and delivery lead times are very short, despite industrial unrest and production outages at a number of sites. Although local producers have made no official reductions, the need to fill their order books has meant they have become more accommodating during price discussions. Both end-users and service centres are keeping inventories low and only buying for orders already on their books. As forecast, producers of long products have lost the increase they applied in April due to negative scrap movements and subdued sales activity.

In the EU, the MEPS EU average All Products Composite transaction value decreased by 2.2% in May. Underlying demand for flat products remains subdued in western Europe, ruling out any chance of price recovery, despite the high costs of production. Moreover, the market is oversupplied due to a number of blast furnace restarts earlier in the year. Buyers anticipate further declines in transaction values during the coming months. As a result, they are expected to keep inventory levels to a minimum in the short term. However, a significant collapse in steel prices is unlikely because the producers’ profit margins are already squeezed. A large number of public holidays across Europe slowed purchasing activity for long products in May. A softening scrap market has exacerbated the situation. Consequently, the mills offered lower prices, again this month, to try to stimulate the market.

MEPS Asia Average steel prices, denominated in US dollars, decreased for all product forms in May.

Transaction values in local currencies were, once again, either stable or down. Ex-mill prices in China decreased for the third consecutive month in May. As a result of poor conditions at home, exporters have, once again, lowered their quotations to foreign customers in what is an ever increasingly competitive market. In Japan, demand from the civil engineering and building segments is growing. The government’s new economic policy and monetary easing has boosted market sentiment. The continuing depreciation of the national currency against the US dollar has lifted exports. Steel prices have been rolled over in May from the April level. Sales remained lacklustre in South Korea. This situation is expected to continue in the second half of the year. Cheap Chinese import prices have weighed heavily on the market, causing domestic mills to offer further discounts. Export activity has also contracted, both in terms of price and volume.

Source: MEPS