CHICAGO Reliance Steel
& Aluminum Co.s carbon steel plate shipment volumes
have held steady, but falling prices hurt margins last year and
still havent recovered, and the service center
chains chief operating officer hopes that buyers accept
the most recent increase attempt.
"Our volumes on plate are
reasonable. Theyre not at peak, (but) weve
certainly seen them worse than this, by quite a bit. So
were really not complaining about the volumes," president
and chief operating officer Gregg J. Mollins said during the
Los Angeles-based companys Feb. 21 conference call.
"But the margins we have on
plate, we are complaining about. Prices went down by over $200
a ton in plate last year. Thats hard to absorb. It has
hit our margins in a negative way, and its a hell of a
lot of ground to make up," he said.
SSAB Americas and Nucor Corp.
both announced Feb. 18 a $30-per-ton increase on plate
(amm.com, Feb. 19), "which we certainly hope will
hold," Mollins said. ArcelorMittal USA LLC later said it would
increase transaction prices on all plate products by $60 per
amm.com, Feb. 22).
Some of last years falling
prices can be attributed to import volumes, Mollins said.
"Imports can always be a problem. They kind of drive us crazy,
actually. But it is what it is."
However, if nonresidential
construction activity starts to improve in the United States as
expected by the second half of 2013, "thats going to have
a big influence on demand for plate," he said. "If demand
improves, I think pricing would certainly improve with it. If
we had the construction volumes that we had back in 2006 to
2007, (that) affects not only beams and mini-mill products
(merchant bar and reinforcing steel), it (also) affects carbon
Mollins said prices on all
construction steel products likely would rise if demand pushes
domestic mills average capacity utilization rate above 80