According to the opinion of experts at the beginning of the year, after four and a half years of financial and economic crisis, 2013 was supposed to finally bring a turn for the better. The facts, however, showed a different picture, and they were confirmed by the recessive trend in Europe, a bumpy recovery in the USA, and continuing economic uncertainties in China. India continues to linger in a state of lethargy, and the result of Japan flooding its economy with money is completely uncertain; only Brazil has most recently shown a real trend toward recovery. In the meantime, the economic forecast for the year has been revised downward across the board—and that not just once. Against this backdrop, it appears quite improbable that the hoped for trend reversal will occur this year. It is increasingly unrealistic to hope for more than a temporary pickup of demand resulting from inventory cycle effects in individual industry segments.
In any case, indications for the next several months from the most important customer industries of the voestalpine Group point largely to a continuing cautious trend as far as demand is concerned. In the automobile industry, demand in non-European markets is for the most part still satisfactory, however, automobile production in Europe will continue to face a declining trend in the medium term. The main reasons are increased relocation of production facilities by a number of manufacturers to growth markets on one hand and, on the other, more restrained buying habits by European consumers due to the crisis.
In the energy sector, the uptick in new projects in the oil and natural gas production segments, which was anticipated for 2013, has for the most part failed to materialize; therefore, expectations are now focused on the second half of the year and hopes that a noticeable recovery in exploration and production will occur. Apart from China, there is no uptrend in sight in the second half of the year for the other conventional energy generation segments. The same applies to alternative energies, where the cutbacks of subsidies in many countries are making investments increasingly unprofitable.
The consumer goods, white goods, and electrical industries should see a relatively solid level of demand in 2013; the same applies to the mechanical engineering segment as well as the construction and agricultural machinery sectors. The aviation industry and the overseas railway sector continue to enjoy a high level of demand. Due to the budget restrictions confronting the public sector, only very modest growth rates are to be expected in Europe for years to come in the construction and construction supply industries; in the short term, a continuing recessive trend must be anticipated in Southern Europe. A continuing downward trend of the raw materials prices (iron ore, coal, coke) is expected.