Soaring steel prices hit packaging industry

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Related tags: Price

Prices for flat rolled steel products in Europe have now in most
cases reached their highest level in the last two decades,
according to UK steel market analyst MEPS. This is likely to impact
the packaging industry.

The firm claims that the previous peak for most categories was reached in the mid-or late-1980s. Since that time there took place a gradual and far from uniform erosion of prices.

According to MEPS, the upturn of the present cycle began in early 2002, but then lost a little ground as a result of the market uncertainty caused by the outbreak of SARS disease in Asia in 2003. But the explosion of prices since then has driven the value of flat steel in Europe to its current record high.

The analysis, published in MEPS' European Steel Review, focuses on the German steel market, Europe's largest, to examine transaction prices. These are basis prices plus the extras applicable to the cheapest grade of steel (sometimes known as "normal commercial quality") in standard product form and the most popular size range. Historical prices have been converted into Euros.

For hot rolled coil, the previous top point since MEPS began collecting data was in late 1984 when it reached the equivalent of €420 per tonne. The historic low point was reached in early 1999 (€209 per tonne). But the current price at the bottom end of our range, €465 per tonne, is the greatest in our records.

In hot rolled plate, the previous high of €427 per tonne was reached in the spring of 1985. The low of €240 per tonne was attained in early 1999. And the current record value is €515.

These hot rolled flat products have shown huge percentage increases in price since they stood at their bottom points - 122 per cent for coil and 115 per cent for plate.

Cold rolled coil has seen a similar development, but to a less dramatic extent. Cold rolled coil in the German market touched its previous pinnacle of € 518 per tonne in mid-1985 before sliding to a record base of €325 in early 1999. The latest surge has taken it up to a historic high of €548 per tonne - a rise of "merely" 69 per cent.

That peak was reached at a time when automobile manufacturers were plunging headlong into the use of galvanized sheet instead of uncoated sheet in order to offer their customers improved corrosion-resistance warranties. A shortage of galvanizing capacity developed and prices roared ahead, before the producers caught up with demand and prices drifted down from those top levels.

Electro-zinc coated sheet stands at €590 per tonne this month - which just beats its previous best of €584 per tonne in late 1995. Electro zinc's low point of €395 per tonne occurred in early 2002.

According to MEPS​, all the signs are that mills are booking 3rd quarter orders at prices, which for many products are substantially higher than those of the 2nd quarter.

Related topics: Markets

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