The European steel supply shortfall will likely continue until next year, Chris Wooffindin, manager of price policy and forecasting at Tata Steel Europe, said during a webinar organized by Eurometal on June 3.
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The imbalance between demand and supply has been the leitmotif of 2021 and it is likely to continue until the end of this year. Domestic mills have restarted around 95% of their pre-COVID output but as demand was stronger than expected this capacity is struggling to satisfy it.
Wooffindin underlined how a portion of the restarted capacity is currently servicing previously agreed contracts and how mills are struggling to keep up with such strong demand with their bookings nearly full for most of this year "which is very strange to say in the middle of year, a situation that I have never seen before."
Due to unbalanced demand and supply prices in Europe reached their highest historical level, climbing from the end of last year by Eur665/mt for hot-rolled coil to a record high Eur1,140/mt base ex-works Ruhr in June, according to Platts data. US prices are even higher due to short supply and not expected to ease any time soon.
According to the Tata Europe executive, while Chinese prices are easing a little, US prices continue to be strong and this is supporting global prices, making the US market at the same time very attractive, even with that country's Section 232 tariffs.
Although the tightness in the European market is expected to ease eventually, some issues remain unresolved. The big uncertainty is linked to Liberty Steel's finances as well as the political issues of Acciairie d'Italia, the former Ilva, which could lead to more market supply problems if these two players decrease production even further or if some other European steelmakers have some unplanned outages.
Among other factors that could impact future price levels apart from the market imbalance is inflation pressure as all prices have gone up – not just for steel.