EUROFER: E.U. Steel Markets Stabilizing But Facing Numerous Challenges

Growth is stabilizing in E.U. steel markets, according to the director general of the European Steel Association (EUROFER), but the sector nonetheless faces challenges, including trade barriers and high import levels.
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“Growth is stabilising in EU steel markets, in line with expectations,” said Axel Eggert, EUROFER’s director general in a release late last week. “However, the various challenges facing the sector will impact us in the coming months. Trade tensions could clearly upset the market’s balance, as could slowing demand in other parts of the economy.”
According to EUROFER, E.U. steel consumption in the second quarter jumped 4.4% year over year.
“Healthy levels of real steel consumption, in combination with stockbuilding in the steel distribution chain in this period, led to this growth,” the EUROFER report states.
Domestic deliveries from E.U. steel mills, however, were outpaced by imports.
Domestic deliveries rose 3.7% year over year, while third-country imports jumped 9.8%. The E.U.’s steel import market share rose from 23.2% in the first quarter to 25% in the second quarter.
“The continued, marked increase in import supply in the second quarter appears to confirm previous concerns about third country exporters pushing extra volumes to the EU market in anticipation of safeguard measures, and a willingness of buyers to take certain speculative risks,” the report states.
E.U. apparent steel consumption is forecast to rise 2.2% in 2018 and 1.1% in 2019.
With that said, ever-looming trade tensions could have an impact on steel demand, EUROFER notes, particularly with respect to the U.S.’s Section 232 automotive investigation.
Already in play is the U.S.’s 25% tariff on steel. The E.U. originally secured a temporary exemption from the tariff this spring (along with Canada and Mexico), but that was allowed to expire June 1.
In July, the E.U. announced the imposition of provisional steel safeguards, aimed at defending against supplies of steel diverted from other countries as a result of the U.S. tariff. The safeguards went into effect July 19, and are permitted to remain in effect for a maximum of 200 days. The European Commission is expected to make a final decision on whether to make the safeguards permanent by early 2019, according to a July release.
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As for steel-using sectors, output is forecast to grow by 3.5% in 2018 and by 1.8% in 2019, according to EUROFER.

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