BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- European steelmakers said Monday they are facing a difficult market climate as demand dries up and rival steel imports from China rise.
Eurofer -- an association whose members include ArcelorMittal SA, Corus and ThyssenKrupp AG -- said the European steel industry was "entering a period of temporary instability and oversupply" that might only end with a modest rebound in the final three months of next year.
The downward trend is expected to accelerate in the first half of 2009, they said, as car sales slump and the construction industry shrinks.
"Until business confidence picks up again, steel buyers will limit purchases and keep stocks as low as possible," the group said.
Economic confidence in the 15-nation euro area hit a seven-year low in September. ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, is already cutting European output by 15 percent. Unions say it will also temporarily close factories in Belgium, France and Germany this winter.
At the same time, Eurofer warned that Europe-based steelmakers face rising competition from imports, highlighting "a distinct rising trend" on Chinese trade since the second quarter.
European steel companies are currently demanding EU trade charges against some Chinese imports and were unhappy that officials decided this month not to immediately levy temporary anti-dumping duties until they wrap up their investigation early next year.
Eurofer says its members directly employ 370,000 people in Europe.