April 25, 2017 / 2:56 PM / 3 months ago

EU steel demand to grow more than 1 pct this year and next, after strong 2016 -Eurofer

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LONDON, April 25 (Reuters) - European steel demand will rise more than 1 percent this year and next, extending last year's strong gains and with local steelmakers set to benefit from the growth thanks to anti-dumping measures, an industry group said on Tuesday.

Apparent EU steel demand, which includes inventory changes, will rise 1.3 percent this year and 1.2 percent next, Eurofer said in a statement. The European steel industry, with sales of about 170 billion euros a year, is seen as a gauge of regional economic health.

Demand grew 3.2 percent last year, Eurofer said, but steelmakers were largely unable to capitalise on this as importers gained market share at their expense. Eurofer does not expect this to be repeated this year.

"Finally we are seeing evidence of EU steel companies also gaining from improving domestic steel demand. However, we must not get ahead of ourselves," said Eurofer's director General Axel Eggert.

"Anti-dumping duties may temporarily provide solace, but the risk of circumvention and other suppliers stepping up deliveries looms large, particularly as protectionism spreads in response to global oversupply pressures."

The United States last week launched an investigation into whether imports of foreign made steel from China and elsewhere posed a national security risk. The move increases the risk that surplus steel will be diverted from the United States to Europe.

Still, shares of EU steelmakers have risen strongly this year as the EU has its own anti-dumping measures in place and as China, source of much of the world's surplus supply, is making good on its pledge to cut 100-150 million tonnes of excess steel capacity by 2020.

Eurofer also expects a weaker euro will for the time being support European steel exports, which are also set to benefit from improving international trade conditions that suggest an upswing in the global economy could be underway. (Reporting by Maytaal Angel, editing by David Evans)

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