Stainless steel mills in Europe are maintaining their annual growth rates this year even though the third quarter saw a slowdown in production, according to Sandro Giuliani of Giuliani Metalli (Cronimet group, Italy). This cut in output was mainly designed to sustain the prices of finished products, he said. But he added that the real engine of this growth is China, and to some extent other Far Eastern countries. Europe appears unable to emerge from a period of stagnation that has already lasted over three years. The weakness of the US currency will not help Europe to recover, Giuliani added. In Germany overall stainless steel production suffered a 3.3% decrease in the first eight months of this year. Italian stainless production fell in the third quarter because of a strategic stock reduction. In the UK scrap demand was curtailed by problems at AvestaPolarit’s billet caster: added to normal seasonal factors this decreased the UK’s expected stainless steel tonnage from 550,000 tonnes to 445,000 tonnes. New plants in Belgium and Finland are ramping up, and Giuliani said this was the main factor that caused EU imports of stainless scrap to total 430,000 tonnes in the first half-year, considerably above 2002.