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Wire rod imports hit rut on economic fears

Keywords: Tags  steel wire rod, imports, fiscal cliff, Catherine Ngai


NEW YORK — Despite competitive pricing, steel wire rod imports continue to slide as buyers concerned about the economy in the new year hesitate to take the plunge.

"It’s a brave new world for all of us right now. As China slows down, they’ll want to put stuff over here. But looking at this past 2012 ... I’m not sure there’s an upside," said one buyer. "I’m hoping things will become more clear at the first of the year."

Wire rod sources said earlier in the fall that competitively priced imports from Turkey and China were being well received in the marketplace, but sources aren’t so sure anymore, citing slack economic conditions and potential tax hikes.

"Things are just ‘fine.’ Last week was kind of dead and this week isn’t a whole lot better, either," one trader said. "Business is so-so. But we have all this economic stuff going on—(like) the fiscal cliff—and I’m hoping that once we get through it, the first and second quarter will be strong."

Wire rod scheduled for February shipment transacted at $590 to $620 per ton in the past week, up slightly from November prices of $585 to $600. Multiple sources said that at least 20,000 tons of rod are expected to arrive in March.

Domestic mills, however, are said to be pushing aggressively for a full $50-per-ton increase announced for Dec. 1 shipments (amm.com, Nov. 15), although some market sources told AMM they doubted the hike would fully stick due to lower-priced imports coming into the market. Moving forward, other sources said they expect another increase despite early indications that scrap prices will move sideways (amm.com, Nov. 28).

"Business has been OK right now. We’re hoping to see a pickup in a few weeks (for imported material)," a second trader said, adding that the first two quarters of the year are usually the strongest for rod imports.

Some 57,838 tonnes of wire rod were set to arrive at U.S. ports in November, according to license data from the Commerce Department’s Import Administration, including 3,342 tonnes from Turkey. No Chinese material was scheduled to arrive last month, and traders said they anticipate Chinese shipments will begin arriving this month.

Others said conditions ahead look darker, as lower demand from end-users has tempered buying in the interim.

"If this fiscal thing really hits, there will be problems," a second buyer said. "We’ve been slow for the last few weeks. Right now, my customers—the ones who are usually busy this time of year—aren’t. That makes us not busy, either. We’re all waiting to see what happens."


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