LOS ANGELES Published structural steel prices will remain steady into the new year as the market leader in wide-flange beams this week announced plans to hold prices unchanged for Jan. 1 shipments.
Nucor-Yamato Steel Co., Blytheville, Ark., will drop its raw materials surcharge for January shipments by $1 per ton (5 cents per hundredweight) while boosting its published base price by the same amount, resulting in "no change in the transaction price for all products" come 2013, it said in a Dec. 10 letter to customers.
Nucor Corp.s Berkeley, S.C., beam mill sent a similar letter to its customers announcing its flat pricing for January.
The decision to keep prices steady follows the lowering of AMMs consumer buying price for automotive shredded scrap in the Chicago market last week by just $1 to $386 per ton.
While the two remaining domestic beam producersTampa, Fla.-based Gerdau Long Steel North America and the Columbia City, Ind.-based structural and rail division of Steel Dynamics Inc.had yet to disclose their January beam prices Tuesday, most market sources said they expected them to follow suit.
Nucor-Yamatos decision would keep the published f.o.b. mill price on core beam sizes at $780 per ton ($39 per cwt), according to a price sheet posted on its website.
With some possible exceptions involving project tonnage, the published price appears to be holding for most day-to-day business, sources said, with buyers seeing little incentive to test the mills determination to maintain the published price. Some distributors pointed out that theyre not inclined to waste time and effort pursuing mill discounts on their limited year-end purchases.
"Were not laying in any extra stock," a Midwest service center buyer said. "First, were going to find out how the first quarter plays out."
Another market source stressed that future beam pricing is likely to depend predominantly on scrap tags rather than on actual demand for structurals, which he doesnt see improving in the coming months. However, some large distribution chains could soon reverse their year-end inventory sell-offs and return to the market, sources said.
While most buyers see little indication of a swift upturn in demand after the new year following a flat or just slightly improved 2012, some market sources pointed to what they believe is a rise in hiring by construction and engineering firms looking for work on projects that are likely to be released in 2013.
"Theres a lot of pent-up demand out there" for nonresidential construction, one observer said, referring to the prime market for large structurals.