NEW YORK The domestic
steel plate market continued to soften this past week as a
result of oversupply and lackluster demand, despite a recent
uptick in steel sheet prices.
Domestic mills are said to be
quoting around $37 per hundredweight ($740 per ton) for
discrete carbon plate in the Midwest and Southeast, down from
reported mid-January quotes of around $38 per cwt ($760 per
ton). Actual sales prices are lower, however, with most market
players reporting spot transactions this past week at around
$36 per cwt ($720 per ton) f.o.b. Midwest mill, with some
noting $35.50 ($710 per ton) was possible with minimal
The weakening plate prices come
at a time when a number of sheet mills are looking to raise
prices, signaling mixed moves in the flat-rolled steel
A number of domestic
millsled by West Chester, Ohio-based AK Steel
Corp.hiked published sheet prices $2 to $2.50 per
hundredweight ($40 to $50 per ton) in late January (
amm.com, Jan. 24).
Those announcements led some in
the plate market, which at times mirrors moves in the sheet
market, to wonder if they would see a similar increase.
However, that hasnt been the case, with plate quotes and
transaction prices actually decreasing this past week.
"As for discrete plate,
Ive seen about a $1-per-cwt decrease this week. I had an
inquiry out to get a couple of truckloads, and I didnt
really have to work all that hard to get a lower price," one
Midwest service center source said. "I dont think demand
is there, and the mills all have fairly substantial
U.S. plate buyers had said in
mid-January that the market was facing downward pressure and
that prices would likely soften in coming weeks (
amm.com, Jan. 18).
Some steel plate buyers said
they were worried that an expected seasonal uptick had not yet
"Usually, this is our busiest
time of yearJanuary, February, Marchand we make the
majority of our money," a second Midwest service center source
said. "Thats not happening right now. Pricing is usually
skyrocketing, but demand isnt there."
Market participants also said
that domestic mills continue to carry "substantial" volumes of
inventory in regular sizes, contributing to short lead times.
As a result, buyers are hesitant to buy more than whats
"Lead times are still very
short, and theres no reason to buy in bulk," a third
Midwest service center source said. "Things are changing so
Plate imports have had little
traction on the East Coast as a result of downward domestic
prices, sources said, although the West Coast continues to be a
relatively attractive destination for imported plate.
"Imports right now are not a
consideration if it takes three months (for imported) vs. two
to four weeks (for domestic) material to arrive," the second
service center source added. "If its not at a substantial
savings, its not worth it."
Medium plate prices at the Port
of Houston have remained steady at $35.50 to $36.50 per cwt
($710 to $730 per ton), sources said.
"Things are coming along, but it
isnt easy," one steel trader said. "There are some bright
spots in plate, but its been spotty. The interest
weve seen is in thicker gauges. And as for pricing, our
buyers are saying there are lots of negotiations but its
a wait-and-see period."
While its unclear whether
prices will continue to soften, buyers cant quite seem to
agree on how things look moving forward.
"The plate market has been clogged with cheap domestic
product, and I dont think the mills can raise prices
right now," a Southern service center source said. "The last
couple of weeks in this month havent been bad, although
the first couple were awful."