NEW YORK Steel sheet
prices have held steady this week as business conditions remain
stable though difficult.
"Stability works for us right
now. Were not very busy, and were not seeing any
prices go up," one buyer said. "Prices are steady and no one is
discounting deeper. But in our business, no one talks past the
end of their noses in terms of timing. Overall, theres no
Hot-rolled sheet was unchanged
from last week at $630 per ton ($31.50 per hundredweight)
f.o.b. Midwest mill, although prices closer to $620 per ton
($31 per cwt) were possible for larger tonnages. Cold-rolled
sheet was steady at $730 per ton ($36.50 per cwt) f.o.b.
Midwest mill, although buyers reported prices closer to $710 to
$720 per ton ($35.50 to $36 per cwt) for larger tonnages.
However, business conditions
have remained difficult. Market participants said domestic mill
sales representatives were calling customers more frequently, a
possible indication of weak order books.
"I think (mills) bookings
are as strong as they want to see them, and they still have
openings in them," a second buyer said. "All that being said, I
dont think were backing up (on pricing), but
were also not making any leaps forward. Business is at a
level that weve learned to live with."
Others, though, said business
had picked up slightly this week compared with January,
possibly due to pent-up demand from recent weakness.
"Orders have been flying. The
last two weeks in December and most of January (werent)
great for a lot of people, but that business is finally
starting to hit, slowly but surely," a third buyer said.
"January is usually a fantastic month from a profit and volume
standpoint, but we underperformed this year. Things have gotten
a little better and prices are steady."
However, most agree that buying
on an as-needed basis is the best way to navigate in the sheet
sector. "Most people are ordering when they need it," a fourth
buyer said. "There is very little speculation out there."
Corinna Petry, Chicago,
contributed to this story.