NEW YORK Spot buying of
carbon steel plate products has resumed in the first full week
of the new year and some sources say they are seeing signs of
end-use demand returning to the market, although the increased
activity has not translated to higher prices from domestic
"Were picking up steam," a
source at one southern plate distributor said, citing an
improvement in order rates since lows in December and a quiet
start in the first few days of 2013. "Im feeling
End-use demand for steel plate
products slowed sharply in December, but distributors and
fabricators said they are now seeing glimmers of hope in their
"Were seeing good
bookings," a Midwest plate processor source said, noting that
fabrication activity was strong.
Still, sources said the
increased activity has not yet translated into longer lead
times at the mills, which is seen by many as an indicator of
real demand. Lad times are said to be as short as three to four
weeks for basic, commodity-grade products, according to steel
Short lead times, on-the-ground
inventories at mills and a lack of certainty about end-user
demand levels going forward have kept many distributors from
moving quickly to restock, despite the apparent uptick, sources
said. The hesitation has spurred some concessions from the
higher offers mills had been quoting since announcing two
rounds of price increases at the tail-end of 2012.
Previously, mills were said to
be quoting as high as $40 per hundredweight ($800 per ton)
f.o.b. Midwest mill for discrete carbon plate, but steel buyers
reported many mills had backed off those levels for most
bookings, leaving transaction levels at an average price of $37
per cwt ($740 per ton).
"Weve seen a little
movement on domestic pricing downward," a Midwest service
center source told AMM, noting that the "concessions"
had encouraged him to jump back in to restock.
Still, many service centers said
they are continuing to hold off building inventory, instead
placing small-tonnage buys based on their order levels.
"Were keeping the inventories close," the southern
distributor source said.