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Sheet buyers booking small tonnages

Keywords: Tags  flat-rolled steel, hot-rolled sheet, cold-rolled sheet, coated sheet, steel service centers, steel prices, Chris Prentice

NEW YORK — Although the spot market was quiet in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, sheet buyers said that they have been purchasing small volumes of flat-rolled products on an as-needed basis.

"We’re covered through January, and over the next couple weeks we’ll be looking just at filling holes," one service center source told AMM, noting that he had recently placed a "small" order for hot-rolled sheet. "People have bought, and now they’re waiting for it to come in."

As of midday Wednesday, other spot buyers said that they had also booked small orders in the vicinity of a few hundred tons of hot-rolled sheet, as well as some cold-rolled and coated sheet products. Distributors said they had ordered for specific needs, as most of their inventory demands have already been met at least through year-end.

Steel service center sources said that customers recently had been more active in the market, sensing that prices for most flat-rolled material may be poised to inch higher amid speculation that some U.S. steel mills may be considering another increase on flat-rolled products in the next two to three weeks. "We’re pretty busy, (though) we’re not at a nine or 10 on a scale of one to 10," a second service center source said.

In mid-November, the spot price of hot-rolled sheet, for example, rebounded to $32.25 per hundredweight ($645 per ton) f.o.b. Midwest mill from an average low of $29 per cwt ($580 per ton) in mid-October. The uptick came as announced price increases in October and early November found support in rising scrap prices and a need to replenish stocks for many distributors (, Oct. 16, Nov. 6).

Now, with those stocks replenished, sources have reported smaller transactions.

"We’re buying what we need," one East Coast manufacturer said, noting that he planned to place a small order of hot-rolled material before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Still, demand was hardly robust in the three days leading up to Thanksgiving, sources said. "It’s been so quiet, we decided to take a half day," a third service center source told AMM Wednesday.

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