NEW YORK Steel plate
mills push to raise tags has not yet translated into
higher transaction prices for most buyers, but the move has
helped keep domestic tags from softening further, market
sources told AMM.
"I didnt see the market
number move at all. The (increase announcements) were more to
try to solidify prices," a source at one carbon plate
A plate processor source agreed,
noting that prices have seen little movement in the weeks since
the announcements. "Everyone is making these price
announcements, and everyone is waiting to see if they stick,"
Nucor Corp. said last month it
was raising net transaction prices by a minimum of $40 per ton
($2 per hundredweight) for all new orders of heat-treated,
quenched and tempered, normalized and as-rolled carbon plate
(AMM, March 23). SSAB Americas quickly joined in,
announcing its own plans to raise transaction prices by a
minimum of $40 per ton effective with orders scheduled to ship
the week of April 29 (AMM, March 26). ArcelorMittal
USA Inc. did not put out a letter raising prices, sources said,
but it has "followed suit verbally," the distributor source
But despite talk of increases,
the majority of spot sales are still taking place in the $930-
to $940-per-ton range that was reported throughout much of the
first quarter, sources said. The stable pricing trend was
confirmed by SteelBenchmarkers April 9 report, released
Wednesday, which pegged standard plate at $936 per ton.
Market sources said that at
least one mill with a healthy backlog was still able to achieve
pricing above that range, even as others were said to be a bit
more aggressive saleswise.
"Theres room to negotiate
on just about anything right now. The mills are trying to get
these increases through, but if you say I have this big,
juicy order theyre going to bend," the plate
processor source said.
The distributor source agreed.
"I think $47 (per cwt) is a fair number, but there are some
buys that can be made below that," he said.
While prices have not shot up as
a result of the announced hikes, they also have not lost any
more ground, despite falling scrap prices and strong import
volumes. Last week, AMM lowered its consumer buying
price for automotive shredded scrap in the Chicago
marketthe basis for some mills raw material
surchargesby $10 per ton (AMM, April 6). "With
scrap prices going down, iron ore prices going down, nickel
going down, copper going down, their input costs going down,
the question is, whats going on?" the processor source
A second distributor source said
the plate market was confused. "Scrap prices are confusing,
mill increases are confusing; theyre confusing me. It
used to be where scrap dictated one way or another (where steel
products would go). I dont think it matters much
anymore," he said.
Also overshadowing the market
are plate imports, which have been stable in recent months but
could rise if domestic price hikes prove successful, sources
"Theres been so much talk
of pricing going the other way because of imports in the market
and more that are going to hit late this month or next into the
Gulf (of Mexico states). There are definitely some signs that
are contradictory," the first distributor source said.
Meanwhile, domestic plate demand
is holding fairly steady, sources said, citing a slight
pullback in recent weeks but an overall stable trend.
"Business was really good in
February; March was again strong. I think the price
announcements kind of put some people on the sidelines, not
buying steel, as they wait and see whats going to
happen," the first distributor source said. "Demand is out
there, (but) it has slowed the last week or two."
The second distributor source
agreed. "Things are steady, were moving along, but no one
is going crazy."