Eurofer’s Q3-2012 steel market outlook signals that market fundamentals may remain depressed longer than expected. Only from Q2 2013 onwards is EU steel demand forecast to improve again.

Eurofer director general Gordon Moffat said: “Weak confidence in combination with liquidity and credit issues is showing a negative impact on the EU business climate. With global economic growth currently hitting a soft patch, export growth is also cooling down, despite the weaker Euro. This is bad news for the manufacturing sector and for steel consumption in the EU”.

Despite the EU escaping a technical recession in Q1-2012, available data signal that economic momentum continued to slow in the first half of the year. Moreover, sentiment has come again under pressure in recent months as concerns about the Eurozone crisis and particularly the indecisive way it is being dealt with by EU’s policy makers have resurfaced.

So far, solid order books have softened the manufacturing sector downturn, keeping activity and capacity utilisation at satisfactory levels. However, corporate and consumer retrenchment will translate into new orders remaining subdued for the time being. Meanwhile, construction activity across the EU will remain under pressure as well, due to a lack of new publicly or privately funded projects.

This will backfire on steel demand in the EU. Apparent steel consumption is estimated to have fallen by 9% year-on-year in H1 2012. Demand in the H2 is seen stabilising around the depressed levels of H2-2011. Total apparent steel consumption in 2012 is forecast to fall 5%.