Curtailed demand in Nordic markets
by Hans Diederichs
Holiday slowdown and continuing trade uncertainties curtail demand in Nordic markets
Business activity, in August, is generally subdued in the Nordic markets, as participants return from annual holidays. The US-China trade war continues to have a negative effect on sentiment. Reduced automotive production, principally in Germany, is starting to disturb other market sectors. Uncertainty surrounding Brexit is having a disruptive impact on trade flows. These factors caused some weakening of prices, countering producers’ efforts to increase levels, in the face of higher raw material costs.
Hot Rolled Coil
Activity is slow, in Denmark, with prices, for hot rolled coil, under downward pressure. Contract deals are unchanged, in Sweden, in local currency. Supply is mainly from local producers. Subcontractors, in Finland, are being negatively affected by the drop in German automotive production. In the Netherlands, the malaise in automotive demand is now affecting other product areas. Steel mills, however, have order books full until October. Sales volumes, in Austria, are better than anticipated, but margins are severely reduced. In Norway, lead times have reduced to 4 to 6 weeks.
Hot Rolled Plate
In Denmark, the holiday period is heavily influencing demand for hot rolled plate. Activity is low and customers are reluctant to buy. Volumes remain unchanged, in the Swedish market. The engineering sector continues to perform satisfactorily, in Finland, but mills’ delivery times are reducing, as they are in Norway. In the Netherlands, demand remains solid, at a low level. The drop in machine building, in Austria, could hit distributors’ turnover, which is already at reduced levels.
Cold Rolled Coil
Imports of cold rolled coil remain unattractive, in Denmark, amidst low activity levels. Reduced demand, from Germany, is pulling down volumes, in Sweden. The market situation remains unchanged in Finland. Selling values, in the Netherlands, softened, in August. Demand, in Austria, is typical for the post-holiday period. Stock levels, although still relatively high, are reducing. In Norway, the decrease in the car industry is starting to have an impact in other areas.
Market participants, in Denmark, expressed disappointment that existing safeguard measures for coated sheet and coil had not been changed. Truck manufacturing, in Sweden, is slowing down. The market remains stable, in Finland and in Norway. In the Netherlands, there is evidence of improvement, in subcontractor activity, leading to limited restocking. In Austria, delayed implementation of projects and last-minute purchasing create nervousness.
Independent suppliers of drawn wire, to Denmark, are experiencing difficulties obtaining wire rod, due to EC safeguards. Order intake, in Sweden, is very good. In Finland, reduced downstream activity, in fencing and wire manufacture, results in shorter order books. Purchasers, in the Netherlands, negotiated reductions, for the third quarter. Further falls are expected for the fourth trimester. The market, in Austria, is weakening but, in Norway, it remains static.
Medium Sections and Beams
Transaction prices for medium sections and beams, in Denmark, fell back to previous levels, in August. In Sweden, mills are pressing buyers to place new orders. New construction starts are slightly down, in Finland. In the Netherlands, delivery times are extending, as a result of mills’ capacity cuts. Construction activity, in Norway, was reduced to essential maintenance, in the holiday period.
The building sector, in Denmark, is reasonably strong and sentiment is positive for reinforcing bars. Values in Sweden registered a minimal drop. The market in Finland is experiencing some weakness. Volumes from Russia decreased because of quota restrictions. In the Netherlands, demand is stable, but at a lower level than was seen in 2018. Spot prices, in Austria and in Norway, weakened slightly.
Basis prices, for merchant bars, dropped, in Denmark, this month. The gap, between northern and southern producers’ offers, is inconsistent. Activity, in Sweden, was very low. In Finland, delivery lead times are very short, and, in Norway, they are decreasing. In the Netherlands, there is enough stock available, to frustrate mills’ proposed increases. Austria remained largely unchanged.