NEW YORK Domestic wire rod buyers will try to get a handle on an uncertain market at the American Wire Producers Associations upcoming annual conference.
A drop in scrap prices earlier this month has left some buyers wondering whether mills will be forced to drop their prices, but an expected pickup in demand for the spring has left the outlook hazy.
"Right now, I think that crystal ball is not very long out there," a trader said. "Usually its three months, six months; now its pretty short."
The conferenceFeb. 18-20 in Orlando, Fla.is likely to shed some light on market movements, sources said, as well as help shape the market, with attendees discussing deals over the next few months.
"You get everyone coming together" at the conference, said an East Coast fabricator. "Theres lots of negotiation and lots of discussion. If you really get active, you can come away with an awfully good sense of where the market is."
AMMs Midwest Ferrous Scrap Index for No. 1 busheling settled Feb. 11 at $375.24 per gross ton, down 3.5 percent from $388.97 last month, while AMMs Midwest Ferrous Scrap Index for shredded scrap settled at $374.93 per ton, down from $386.49 in January (amm.com, Feb. 11).
Mills could resist lowering prices on some wire rod grades due to early indications that demand from the construction sector may pick up, sources said.
"We are getting forecasts from customers that say spring is near," a wire fabricator said.
A southern wire fabricator also said he is seeing demand beginning to pick up in the commercial construction sector. "We dont see the specific projects, but just judging by the customers, (theyre) medium-sized projects," he said. "I wouldnt say weve seen a huge move, but for this time of year, were a little better than wed normally be."
Without a good handle on the market, rod buyers have kept their inventories lean, seeing no need to stock up with lead times at the mills as short as two or three weeks.
"As long as lead times are short and buyers believe they can pick up the phone and get anything they want in 15 to 20 days, they dont feel compelled to get inventory," said the East Coast rod distributor.
Expected growth in automotive demand could also continue to sustain some rod grades.