Transaction prices are moving relentlessly upwards worldwide as steelmakers address their escalating raw material costs according to Sheffield based market consultants MEPS. Global Composite Steel Price increased 10.5% in January 2011, compared to December 2010.
In the US, the pace of flat product price increases is described as ‘fast and furious’. The shortage of scrap and surging costs of other raw materials have pushed the mills into a frenzy of announcements regarding transaction numbers. As is usual, actual market prices are lagging behind the proposals. In the meantime, real demand is only just satisfactory.
In China, steelmakers are facing sharply higher costs for iron ore and coking coal, which they must pass on to their clients, both at home and abroad. Purchasing by end-users has started to slow ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday starting 3 February. However, there is speculation that prices will continue to climb after the holidays, especially as many leading producers have elected to lift their official February ex-works figures.
In Japan, a slow recovery in consumption by many Japanese end-user sectors, has made a very positive price revival possible needed to the upsurge in steelmaking costs.
In South Korea, demand from downstream industry remains lacklustre, making it quite difficult for the mills to implement increases. Posco is reluctant to try to cover rising raw material costs by means of domestic hikes in the first quarter.
Consumption in western Europe has changed very little during the last four weeks. Nevertheless, domestic producers are poised to lift second quarter offers because of raw material price developments and energy cost increases. Steel output has been curbed and restocking is expected to get underway shortly.