NEW YORK Carbon steel
plate prices have held steady for three straight weeks,
and unless a seasonal uptick in demand materializes or ferrous
scrap prices rise, pricing appears unlikely to see any upward
momentum in the near-term, market sources said.
Steel plate buyers said they
have continued to hold off purchasing in recent weeks, having
seen limited customer activity in the first week of the new
year and short mill lead times from most suppliers.
"People who might have been a
bit slow because of inventory and the year-endthey need
to have steel ... but I believe with the short lead times,
people feel comfortable in not making immediate decisions," one
mill source told AMM.
Distributors and fabricators
agreed with that bearish assessment.
"I dont think service
centers are taking many positions on inventory," one Midwest
distributor said. "Most of us are in a holding pattern to see
how things shake out."
He said that without the
certainty that he can pass along rising costs to his customers,
he will refrain from purchasing any new material.
In addition to the short lead
times, buyers reported readily available inventories at some
"They still have a lot of
inventory on the floor," a second Midwest service center source
said, citing inventory lists sent Thursday from major domestic
plate mills. "You can still get mill lead times through the end
of this month."
Meanwhile, mill and distributor
sources said they have received inquiries from customers in the
opening days of the new year, but its still too soon to
determine whether demand will be strong enough to support an
increase in prices, they said.
"Ive seen some inquiries,
but (customers are) digging out from paperwork, too," one
fabricator said, noting that he, like many, was out during the
As a result of the low order
entry rate, the price of discrete plate remained unchanged at
about $37 per hundredweight ($740 per ton) f.o.b. Midwest mill
this past week amid limited activity.
Domestic mills have been quoting
higher prices following two rounds of price hike announcements
last quarter, but they have only achieved about $60 of the full
$100-per-ton increase on published prices (
amm.com, Dec. 21).
The direction of the January
scrap market will also be key in determining whether prices
will rise any higher. "I would expect itll really depend
on scrap," the second Midwest distributor said.
On Wednesday, one Chicago mill entered the scrap market at
flat prices, leading some to speculate the market might be
sideways in January.