Early Christmas gift might prove to be a lump of coal

Jan 01, 2009 | 11:42 AM |

Have we hit bottom? In the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays, that was the question on the lips of many in the North American industry. That it was even being asked could be viewed as a sign of progress from September through mid-November, the market direction was unequivocally down.

That seemed to change in late November. As always, the scrap market provided the first indications of a potential change. A flurry of export deals, followed by an upturn in prices for some grades in the east and Midwest, halted and—at least temporarily—reversed the collapse in prices. That fed through to the steel markets, with hot band recording a $20-per-ton increase in early December, the first uptick since the heat of late July; it was modest, perhaps, in light of the massive price hikes (and almost as massive declines) that 2008 will be remembered for, but welcomed by mills and even many buyers all the same.....

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