LOS ANGELES Carbon steel plate sales on the West Coast appear to be slowing further as few buyers appear willing to gamble that even todays low prices will look good in a months time.
"Were only buying per job, otherwise not until next year," one distributor source said.
Domestic prices for warehouse grades and sizes, which last month were as low as $830 to $840 per ton ($41.50 to $42 per hundredweight) delivered, are now moving lower, approaching $40 per cwt in some cases, depending on delivery costs, according to sources.
With the markets current direction and sentiment, including the impact of heavy import inventories, buyers remain cautious.
"You dont want to be paying over $40 (per cwt) for plate if you want your inventory costs to remain competitive," one service center executive said.
Interest in purchasing plate, which earlier in 2012 was viewed as the strongest of the major carbon steel products in the West Coast market, has fallen to what most buyers agree is the years low point.
"At the current consumption level, we think its probably going to take until the end of the year to work off inventories," another buyer said.
Among the major domestic sources for carbon plate in the West Coast market are Nucor Corp.s facilities in Hertford, N.C., and Tuscaloosa, Ala.; the North American division of Lisle, Ill.-based SSAB Americas; and Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA.
Moreover, the regions only significant producer of discrete platethe Portland, Ore., operations of Evraz North America Inc.s Flat Products Grouphas become more active in the trade plate market, sources said. It is competing against large distributors, who at times play the role of mill depots, while also offering relatively short lead times.
An Evraz spokeswoman couldnt be reached for comment Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the role of South Koreathe benchmark for imports in the West Coast market and believed to account for most foreign plate in the regions warehousesremains unclear. While some sources said the latest offers from Korea have fallen below $37 per cwt ($740 per ton), others said they havent followed up on these reports because their warehouses are already full.
"We told them we dont need any more plate," one buyer said of his recent contact with traders selling Korean plate.