The current economic expectations for the coming months differ very little from the expectations for the previous quarters. A continuation of the development of recent months is expected, in other words, continuing stabilization at a moderate level. Nevertheless the prospects of growing global economic momentum in the course of 2014 seem to be sound, especially considering the noticeable successes of restructuring measures with regard to budget management in a number of European countries, the stabilization of growth in China at just above 7%, and a marked economic upswing in North America.
Exports will remain the driving force of the automobile industry in Europe. Uncertainty with regard to scope and speed of the paradigm shift with regard to energy, but also as far as the oil price is concerned, has been slowing down investment activity in the energy sector for the past year and a half—not only in Europe. The economic momentum that is still in short supply in the major industrial sectors of automotive, energy, and construction (with the latter playing a secondary role for voestalpine) cannot be fully compensated by the significantly better trend in a number of niche segments, such as the white goods and consumer goods industries, the construction machinery and agricultural machinery segments, railway infrastructure, the aviation industry, and the mechanical engineering industry.
The development of the voestalpine Group should continue at a stable level during the second half of the business year 2013/14. This means solidly full capacity utilization, however, at price levels that continue to be subdued for the Steel Division; almost full capacity utilization at slightly more volatile prices for the Special Steel Division; stable, full capacity utilization and steady prices that continue to be competitive for the Metal Engineering Division; and largely full capacity utilization at reliably consistent prices for the Metal Forming Division.