While rebar prices in northwestern Europe seem to have stabilised with little prospect of dropping much further, some players are already again tempted to speculate.

The issue is well-known among distributors. The erratic and irrational leaps of the first half-year have not necessarily taught all players to be more cautious. Some distributors returned quickly to betting on falling prices, in defiance of the current geopolitical and economic turmoil (see Kallanish 28 July).

“Some have apparently learned nothing from the chaos of the recent months,” one observer says. He tells of downstream offers for rebar cut & bent that are virtually on par with the current restocking price for material from German mills.

Their base prices are now at €750-800/tonne ($749-799/t), and plus the size extra of €265/t translate to €1,015-1,065/t, with coil material fetching another €20/t on top, in both base price and size extra.

Most market observers expect prices to pick up, although this may still take several weeks going forward. In any case, distributors with low offers will likely lose money when restocking soon - or have already lost money on inventories bought for a serious €1,400/t in April.

“They try to snatch jobs, but that way cause harm to a healthy price structure on the market,” the observer says.

A similar behaviour also caused turmoil elsewhere upstream, when in March many Italian mills took irregular production breaks on account of extreme energy prices. Such stoppages did not occur at most other European mills, and the observer suggests that the pain for Italian mills came as a consequence of speculation on the electricity stock exchanges earlier on.

“They banked on falling prices, and they lost,” he says.