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EU Flat Steel Distributor Shipments Down 3% In 2018
Feb 06, 2019

“Shipments decelerated mainly in the second half of 2018, with mounting uncertainties regarding the European automotive industry and related supplier sectors,” the regional federation for steel, tube and metals distribution and trade, said on Monday February 4. 

The automotive sector is one of the main end users of flat steel in the Europe, so a decline in car demand puts pressure on the steel coil market. 

And since a surge in new car sales last summer, ahead of the introduction of emissions testing under the new Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) on September 1, demand for cars has been declining in most EU countries, according to the European Automotive Manufacturers Assn (ACEA). 

Then, in October, the European Parliament said it would require a 40% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2030

So while market participants said this negative trend was likely to be short-lived and the market should be back to normal in the first quarter, all major EU markets, apart from Italy, saw demand for cars decline in the last month of 2018. The total number of new passenger car registrations was down 8.41% year on year in December, to 998,503 units, ACEA said. 

Eurometal’s stock index for flat steel service centers in the EU was 107 days in December of 2018, compared with 109 days in the corresponding month of 2017. The index takes the 2015 average as its 100-point basis. 

Eurometal does not disclose specific volumes along with its statistics, but stocks of hot-dipped galvanized coil (HDG) remained on the high side, Eurometal said. which reflects the decline in demand from automotive industry - a key HDG end user.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for domestic HDG in Northern Europe was €610-630 ($698-721) per tonne ex-works on January 30, down by €10 per tonne due to slow trading. 

The price of HDG, however, is expected to increase due to the anticipated re-stocking cycle and the impact of the European Commission’s definitive safeguard measures on imported steel, according to market sources. 

The European Commission (EC) imposed definitive safeguard measures on a list of imported steel products, in the form of tariff rates and quotas on February 2. And while the measures are unlikely to have a significant effect on Europe’s imports of flat steel, the one exception is HDG, for which the EC decided to separate material mainly used by the automotive industry from coil used by other sectors. 

Multi-product distributor shipments in the region inched up by 0.6% year-on-year in 2018, according to Eurometal. 

“Positive trends in the EU construction industry were supportive of this steel distribution [sector],” Eurometal said. 

Stock levels among multi-product distributors in the EU, expressed in Eurometal index terms, were 98 days in December last year, which compared with 96 days in December 2017.