European steel producer ArcelorMittal has increased its flat products prices by Eur30/mt, sources said.
An ArcelorMittal executive confirmed the increase would be immediate.
“We are confident in what we see internationally,” the executive said. “Asia is going up, imports are inching up and there is an agreement that restocking can begin. The signals are pointing up, and Europe was lagging behind.”
Some market participants welcomed the move, seeing it as a possible step to stop further price drops but other mill sources were hesitant to follow the market leader’s move.
A German mill source said ArcelorMittal was below prevailing price levels in the past few weeks and had to catch up.
“They have moved down heavily before,” he said. “It could be a chance for us [to move up], but I am skeptical because it was not just them,” adding that several tier-2 mills are still selling at the lower end of the market range.
Flat steel prices in northern Europe weakened in January, with hot-rolled coil being particularly affected, shedding around Eur20/mt since the beginning of the year.
Price levels for HRC have been in the Eur490-505/mt ex-works Ruhr range this week, while cold-rolled was in the Eur580-605/mt ex-works Ruhr range and hot-dip galvanized steel between Eur600-620/mt ex-works Ruhr.
A German buyer said signs from Asia and other importing countries point toward a price increase, but European mills mostly viewed the local market as weak.
“I had the impression that mills had given up and were waiting for an impulse,” the source said.
“They might get [a price rise of] Eur15-20/mt. If several mills do that, then it could work. But it probably won’t be realized before March,” the source added.
Sources agreed that HRC prices are most likely to move first, as it is the most traded on the spot market.
“The south [of Europe] will be first, but with the current order booking situation it will not come about immediately,” said another European mill source. “But the framework is improving, with raw material costs, import prices, increasing prices in Asia and Black Sea, etc.”
Following Vale’s dam collapse in Brazil last week, iron ore prices have been rising steadily.
The actual volume loss is not the biggest issue, sources said, but if Vale stopped production at other sites for inspections, it could have knock-on effects on premiums and pellet prices.