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Steel imports steady in near term: AIIS

Keywords: Tags  AIIS, American Institute for International Steel, steel importers, steel imports, steel, imports, hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel corrosion-resistant steel

NEW YORK — Steel imports will likely hold steady over the next two months, according to the American Institute for International Steel’s latest survey, with traders saying that soft U.S. prices have caused the foreign spot market to lose traction.

All survey respondents said that they expect shipments of cold-rolled sheet, corrosion-resistant steel, structural products and pipe and tube products to remain the same over the next two months, based on already-placed orders. Some 96 percent also said that they expect cut-to-length shipments to remain the same.

Market participants point out that a status-quo type of stability has not been good, especially at a time when service centers have largely avoided buying imports due to slumping U.S. prices.

“Business is pretty bad. I mean, I was expecting more business this quarter, and people are concerned, very concerned, about the market,” one flat products trader said.

In January, several mills raised sheet prices by $40 to $50 per ton, although the trend quickly lost steam (, Feb. 13). Plate mills also raised prices $30 to $60 per ton (, Feb. 22). Market participants noted at the time that they had yet to see higher prices.

“I don’t think the price increase will stick,” the trader added. “It’s almost laughable.”

However, some said that the second quarter seems to look stronger in light of planned outages at several sheet and plate mills and an expected rebound in ferrous scrap prices.

All survey respondents said that they expect cold-rolled sheet and corrosion-resistant steel shipments to increase over the next three to five months, based on orders already placed, and nearly two-thirds expect hot-rolled sheet shipments to increase.

“Things always have a way of adjusting out,” a second trader said. “Domestic prices will surely move up—I think in the second quarter—and I think import prices will surely move down. At some point, things will work out again.”

The majority of respondents said that booking prices for hot-rolled sheet, cold-rolled sheet, corrosion-resistant steel, wire rod, and pipe and tube products are “increasing moderately” compared with one to two months ago.

But most respondents predicted that there will be “moderate oversupply,” particularly in corrosion-resistant sheet, cut-to-length plate, wire rod, structural products, and pipe and tube, over the next one to three months.

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