* To raise prices by at least 300 crowns
* Hints at better demand ahead
STOCKHOLM, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Swedish specialty steel maker SSAB on Wednesday said it would raise steel prices in Europe by at least 300 Swedish crowns ($45.42) per tonne.
Global steel makers have been struggling to cope with Europe’s debt crisis, weak growth in Japan and the United States, and slower expansion in China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of the alloy.
Steel prices in China tumbled to a three-year-low in September, but have recovered some ground in recent months as signs of recovery in the United States and Asia firm.
The most actively traded rebar contract for May delivery on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed up 57 yuan at 3,619 yuan ($580) per tonne, stretching its upward streak to a third straight session.
SSAB declined to comment on the market.
“What we are saying is that there has been enormous pressure on prices for a long time and now we think it is time that turned around,” said SSAB spokeswoman Helena Stalnert.
SSAB said the price increases applied to hot rolled, cold rolled and galvanized steel coil, as well as heavy plate.
Earlier this week, Salzgitter, Germany’s second biggest steelmaker, said it would increase prices by 30 euros per tonne due to increasing costs of raw materials and tight profit margins.
Salzgitter added it expected demand to pick up in early 2013.
SSAB in October posted an operating loss of 665 million crowns in the third quarter due to weak demand in Europe and said then it expected the gloomy situation to continue.
Shares in SSAB were up 3.79 percent at 56.10 crowns at 1437 GMT, outperforming a 0.5 percent rise in the wider Stockholm index. ($1 = 6.6046 Swedish crowns) ($1 = 6.2253 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Veronica Ek; editing by Keiron Henderson)