NEW YORK A slow midwinter construction market and the expectation of fairly flat scrap prices in February have frozen steel long product tags, sources said, noting that buyers continue to hold out on higher-volume deals to see if business begins to thaw as spring approaches.
Wire rod prices have held steady in recent weeks, buyers and sellers said, with mesh-quality low-carbon wire rod prices at $33.50 per hundredweight ($670 per ton) f.o.b. mill, industrial-quality low-carbon rod at $34 per cwt ($680 per ton), high-carbon wire rod at $35.25 per cwt ($705 per ton) and cold-heading quality prices at $38 per cwt ($760 per ton).
Reinforcing bar prices also remained unchanged in the final weeks of January, with most sources still reporting tags at around $34 per cwt ($680 per ton) f.o.b. mill.
"Volumes are definitely not flying off the shelves but pricing has been pretty stable," one rebar producer said.
The sideways pricing comes at a time of steadybut not dynamicsteel demand.
"Were buying for what we need for the near future, but were not gobbling," a Midwest rebar buyer said, noting that a January slowdown in construction appeared largely seasonal.
"Aside from the economy, its just that time of year," the Midwest rebar buyer added.
"I think inventories are OK right now," a Midwest wire rod buyer agreed. "Everyones kind of waiting for another shoe to drop."
A number of industry sources said they were waiting for February scrap prices to settlelikely as early as next weekto give them an indication of where steel prices are headed. U.S. scrap market participants speculated earlier this week that ferrous scrap prices would be sideways to marginally down in February (amm.com, Jan. 28).
"The scrap market is figuring itself out. ... Itll be settled in the next five business days," the rebar producer said.
Industry sources also said they were waiting for two mid-February conferences, the World of Concrete event in Las Vegas and the American Wire Producers Association (AWPA) annual conference in Orlando, Fla., where they expect to settle bigger deals that could determine volumes and pricing for the months ahead.
"The telling tale will probably evolve around the middle of February when everyone is at the AWPA," the Midwest wire rod buyer said.