NEW YORK The wire rod import market has gone limp, with potential buyers turning their sights to anticipated near-term price decreases from domestic mills and the summer slowdown.
"In the summer, most people are well advised to just sit back and relaxjust chill," one buyer said. "The bottom line is that theres plenty of steel out there. Im surely not going to buy anything right now."
The excitement over Chinese rod in recent months has slowly given way due to increased prices from foreign mills and a slowdown in the domestic markets as a $50-per-gross-ton drop in Detroit ferrous scrap prices (AMM, June 6) paved the way for other cities to follow.
On Wednesday, Gerdau Long Steel North America lowered its prices for reinforcing bar, merchant bar and beam products by $15 per ton. While there hasnt yet been any movement on wire rod, a number of buyers anticipated a definite decrease for July.
"People just arent buying right now until they have a good feel on where scrap is heading," one trader said. "Prices are softening. People are doing the math: shredded has gone down, oil prices are falling. Itll be a tough act to sell any rod."
Rod import license applications plunged to 88,484 tonnes in May, according to the Commerce Departments Import Administration. Thats down 37.1 percent from Aprils preliminary imports of 140,605 tonnes, U.S. Census Bureau data show. While the flow of material coming from Canada looked poised to remain virtually unchanged (at 35,428 tonnes vs. 34,329 tonnes), product from Turkey was set to fall by more than 53 percent (to 18,732 tonnes from 40,533 tonnes) and those from China by 81.2 percent (to 4,125 tonnes from 21,902 tonnes) in the same comparisons.
Rod from China is still expected to be in the pipeline until at least early September, other traders said, although those numbers seem to be declining steadily.
"The market has seized up quite a bit," a second trader said. "The Chinese offers look interesting. But with this downward trend, itll be very difficult to make any sales."
Turkish material, on the other hand, continues to be some $20 to $30 per short ton more costly than Chinese rod, as Turkish mills have moved their focus to Africa and the Middle East.
Offer prices for wire rod imports to the Port of Houston were between $665 to $690 per short ton, although no transactions were reported in the past week.
Moving forward, traders said that major movements wont happen in the near term.
"I dont think there will be any huge movements in the rod market going forwardnot, at least, for the next four to six months, that I can tell you," the first trader said.