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Plate prices flat amid contract talks

Keywords: Tags  steel plate, strip mill plate, discrete plate, cut-to-length plate, U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal, labor negotiations, United Steelworkers union usw

NEW YORK — The price of cut-to-length plate was unchanged in the past week as buyers and sellers reported limited market activity.

"Prices are in a holding pattern. They’re not falling any further; they’re not rising," one mill source said.

Cut-to-length plate is around $780 per ton ($39 per hundredweight) f.o.b. Midwest mill, unchanged from levels earlier this month when domestic mills announced price increases of $50 per ton on plate products (, Aug. 16).

"Nothing’s happening," a source at one fabricator said. "Everybody’s waiting on the U.S. Steel and Arcelor(Mittal) labor negotiations."

Falling iron ore prices and a sideways scrap market in September would not lend support to rising prices, sources said. But looming over the market is the prospect of a work stoppage if negotiations fail to produce a new contract at either Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. or Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA Inc. by Sept. 1, which likely would send prices surging, sources said.

Amid the uncertainty, sources agreed that prices appear to have reached a floor.

"The discrete (plate) side has bottomed out," one service center source said, adding that cut-to-length and coiled plate prices have stabilized while strip mill plate prices have begun to rise.

ArcelorMittal produces a range of plate products and U.S. Steel produces strip mill plate.

A second Midwest service center source said that it was too soon following the price announcements to know if the higher prices would stick.

In an update to members Friday, the United Steelworkers union negotiating team confirmed that no agreement has yet been reached with U.S. Steel or ArcelorMittal. Addressing a market rumor, the USW also noted that ArcelorMittal has not requested an extension of the contract set to expire Sept. 1, nor has one been agreed to.

The USW’s U.S. Steel negotiating committee said in a separate statement to members dated Aug. 22 that it continues to make "steady" progress.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Steel declined to comment on the negotiations and a spokeswoman for ArcelorMittal did not respond to a request for comment.

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