NEW YORK At least two
major steel mills have raised spot prices on carbon and alloy
plate products in an effort to halt a softening market, sources
Lisle, Ill.-based SSAB Americas
has increased its base prices for non-contract carbon and alloy
steel plate products by a minimum of $30 per ton, according to
a Feb. 18 letter to customers. The price hike, effective with
March 17 shipments, applies to as-rolled carbon and
high-strength low-alloy plate; normalized plate; alloy plate,
including quenched and tempered; cut-to-length plate less than
72 inches wide; and hot-rolled coils less than 72 inches
Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor
Corp. followed the move, increasing carbon, alloy and
heat-treated plate prices by $30 per ton for all new orders
effective immediately, according to a letter sent to customers
late Feb. 19.
While the move seems to point to
a strengthening in order books, market participants questioned
the fundamentals behind such an increase. Other mills were
expected to follow, they added.
"Apparently, theyve (SSAB)
got strong booking weeks and have a three-week planned outage.
I guess theyre taking the opportunity to raise prices,"
one Midwest buyer said. "They want to take it to the bank. But
there is still a lot of (excess plate) inventory sitting
The domestic plate market
continues to face downward pressure as buyers remain wary of
quiet end markets, market participants said last week (
amm.com, Feb. 15).
SSABs planned outage at
its Montpelier, Iowa, mill at the end of March and early April
will last approximately eight to 15 days, a company spokeswoman
Market participants noted that
this outage could potentially lead to more support for a price
increase, but excess inventory remains an issue in the plate
"Theres all this glut of
material and no one is buying anything," a second Midwest buyer
said. "People are still going to buy when they absolutely need
(it) until business conditions get better, of course. Why would
you beef up your inventory without knowing whats going to
But SSABs plate hike
wont be enough for the market to gain traction on the
import front, traders said. The market for imported plate has
been marked by pricing offers that are not competitive in the
U.S. market, particularly as demand remains lackluster.
"The problem is that all the
foreign mills have been trying to raise prices at the same
time. It looks like all the buyers worldwide are waiting and
trying to resist price increases," one trader said.
"Theres still too much steel. All these price increases
are efforts by domestic mills to stop the bleeding and
stabilize the markets. Its got nothing to do with market
fundamentals like extended lead times or uptick in demand.
Imports are very tough right now."
While its too early to
know if prices will stick, lackluster demand will keep buyers
hesitant about placing new orders, buyers said.
"We want it to stick. We want
our inventory value to increase," the first buyer said. "But,
again, there has to be some reason for it to stick, and quite
honestly I dont think the demand is there. Things
(prices) come and go. Its the proverbial roller