EU stainless steel prices continue to rise due to scarce availability
EU stainless steel prices continue to rise due to scarce availability

25 March 2024 – Stainless steel prices in the EU continue to rise. Scarce availability meets growing demand. And European steel consumers are starting to fight back against domestic steel producers and their demands for ever more market protection. Is Brussels once again setting the wrong priorities?

EU stainless steel prices continue to rise due to scarce availability

Even though the EU alloy surcharges for stainless steel have actually become obsolete, they still attract a certain amount of attention. After the alloy surcharges for grades 304 (1.4301) and 304L (1.4307) had already risen by around 3.5% in March, they increased by a further 4.8% in April. This was due to the stabilising nickel prices, which had been back at more than USD 17,000/MT since 27 February.

At the same time, a revitalising stainless steel demand side is meeting a further tightening of supply on the part of EU stainless steel producers.

Domestic steel consumers demand less market protection from Brussels

The European Union has been dependent on steel imports for more than a decade. In 2023, the shortfall in imports was already 22 million tonnes. A problem that the European Commission has been aware of for years. EC forecasts even assume that steel consumption in the EU will increase significantly more than domestic manufacturers can produce.

Decline in EU crude steel production has been expected for decades

The sharp decline in EU crude steel production, which has recently been driven through Brussels once again by EUROFER and manufacturers as a spectre for further market protection measures against China, among others, is also a long-awaited decline, as a large proportion of domestic blast furnaces are at the end of their service life and need to be renewed or replaced.

Is the Commission once again handing out election gifts?

None of this is anything new for the Commission or President Ursula von der Leyen. However, the fact that Brussels is giving preferential treatment to its own steel manufacturers and deliberately sacrificing its own processing industry to do so could be a boomerang for Mrs von der Leyen in the upcoming EU parliamentary elections. For the first time, she will have to earn her democratic right to exist and must fear for her re-election.

Steel consumers are being deliberately disadvantaged from Brussels

It is therefore hardly surprising that European steel processors and consumers see themselves threatened by the machinations of domestic manufacturers in these rope teams and, with 7 million jobs at risk, actually have the better arguments on their side. After all, with the massive steel sanctions against Russia blocking more than 5 million tonnes of Russian exports to the EU every year, alternative sources of supply must now be found. A demand that demonstrably cannot be met within the EU.

EC has been hiding its own subsidies for years

It also seems less and less credible when people in Brussels moan about subsidies from the Chinese state, while billions of euros in subsidies have flowed to EU steel manufacturers in the form of free emissions certificates since 2005 and billions more are being sunk into steelworks unwilling to invest with the EU Green Deal. Especially when the current development in the EU steel market has been foreseen for more than a decade and has therefore been known for a long time.

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