NEW YORK Steel sheet
price offers below the symbolic $600-per-ton
($30-per-hundredweight) mark appear to have dried up following
the latest round of domestic price hike attempts, market
sources told AMM.
The recently announced
$50-per-ton increases havent translated into actual
transaction price hikes in that amount, mill and buyer sources
agreed, but it has served to eliminate many of the
barrel-scraping discounts available in the days leading up to
"From what I know, all the major
deals are off the table," one Midwest service center source
said. "Whatever deals there weremajor ones, minor
oneseverything is gone. The mills have been pretty
Early last week, most steel
buyers said that hot-rolled sheet could be purchased for as low
as $590 per ton ($29.50 per cwt), although most spot deals were
concluded closer to $610 to $620 per ton ($30.50 to $31 per
cwt). This week, however, most market participants said the
price is firmly at the $620 number, with some smaller orders
transacted as high as $630 per ton ($31.50 per cwt) and all
sub-$600 quotes now off the table.
The slightly higher prices come
a week after U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh, led a second round
of hikes for the year, increasing base prices by $50 per ton
effective immediately, a move that was quickly followed by most
peer mills (
amm.com, Feb. 27).
At the same time, an expected
seasonal uptick in steel demand this month and higher ferrous
scrap costs appear to be lending some minor support to the
And while few new transactions
had been reported, as many steel buyers have been sitting on
the sidelines (
amm.com, March 4), sources confirmed that the
recent hikes did serve to successfully stop the slide.
"Theres been more activity
anecdotally. Ive had more phone activity, more incoming
phone calls and people asking for larger order sizes," a
service center source in the North said. "I think its
partly because people are anticipating prices sticking because
we bottomed out."
February had been a weaker month
due to fewer shipping dates and "malaise" among the customer
base, he said, but added that the outlook appeared
"Theres a lot of cynicism
out there on whether prices are going to go up," he said. "But,
were heading into a season where seasonality of the
construction products will kick in and pump the market."
A mill source confirmed that
most suppliers are maintaining discipline in terms of quoting
the increase, although increased buying remained to be
"Weve raised our numbers
definitely. Its not that many have booked at those
numbers yet, as people are sitting on their hands. But the
numbers being quoted are definitely trending up," the mill
source said, adding that many mills have refused to cut lower
In the Midwest, where sources
say the hikes might have the most success due to a lack of
competition from imports, business continues at stable,
although somewhat lackluster, levels.
"Business is still spotty, but
at least its keeping us in business," a second Midwest
service center source said. "The mills are trying hard to keep
those prices up. But there are some mills that if they quote
you, and you dont give them an order, theyll get
back to you."
In the Northeast, participants
point out that some unsold foreign cold-rolled remains at the
docks priced at a discount to domestic material. While traders
confirmed that some Chinese material remains uncompetitive for
current bookings (
amm.com, March 5), certain mills are said to have
lowered their prices to match the foreign product.
"Theres a small pricing
war going on out there between the domestics and the
importers," a Northeast service center source said. "Were
going through a weird time because no one seems that busy. Our
customer base is quiet, and I just dont see the train out
of the station."
Meanwhile, to keep prices up,
sources said something fundamentally would need to change.
"Business is fine. Weve
been getting more inquiries. While I wouldnt say business
is great, its between good to very
good, " a third Midwest service center source said.
"I think everyone believes the prices are going up. The
problem, though, is that theres just too much steel in