NEW YORK Steel plate
prices look poised for near-term gains after at least two mills
raised tags $30 per ton amid increased market activity and
higher raw material costs.
Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C.,
has increased base prices by a minimum of $30 per ton on all
new orders for carbon, alloy and heat-treated plate effective
immediately, according to a March 8 letter to customers.
SSAB Americas also said it was
raising its base prices by a minimum of $30 per ton for all
noncontract as-rolled carbon and high-strength low-alloy plate,
normalized plate, alloy plate including nonbranded quenched and
tempered, cut-to-length plate greater than 72 inches wide and
hot-rolled coil greater than 72 inches wide. The Lisle,
Ill.-based companys increase is for all new and existing
orders acknowledged for shipment the week of April 14, it said
in a letter to customers March 8.
Buyers have said in recent weeks
that depressed demand and slow end markets had put downward
pressure on transacted prices (
amm.com, Feb. 22). But activity seems to have
solidified in the past week, sources told AMM, causing
renewed strength in the market.
"Weve had a stronger order
book for the last month and a half. Order entries have
improved. My understanding is that no one has March rolling
space anymore," one mill source said. "Were still a
little cautious and we recognize that its a fragile
market ... but there are definite signs that things are slowly
While neither of the companies
gave a reason for the increases, they are in line with earlier
$30-per-ton increases by both mills of (
amm.com, Feb. 19).
While ArcelorMittal USA LLC
followed the original increases, it instead hiked prices by $60
per ton for April deliveries, which sources said would mean
that Nucor and SSAB would follow (
amm.com, Feb. 22).
While transaction prices this
past week had yet to move up and remained steady at $35.50 per
hundredweight ($710 per ton) f.o.b. Midwest mill, market
participants said a turnaround was expected.
"Things really turned around
this last week," one Midwest buyer said. "Lead times have
extended somewhat, and I think its because of some
The turnaround could be
attributable to a seasonal uptick, some said, particularly
those tied to the construction market. The increased activity,
combined with recent rising scrap costs for March, could give a
much needed boost to the market.
"Were in the last month of
the first quarter," the first Midwest buyer added. "The winter,
hopefully, is behind us and things tend to get busier when the
weather gets better."
Others said surplus inventories
at domestic plate depots have "dried up" in the last couple of
But some remain skeptical of any
upward movement, saying it could be too early to tell if the
recent price increases will stick.
However, they added that mills
have been more disciplined in keeping quotes higher, even if
business activity hasnt shown much improvement.
"Some of the quotes that came in
were slightly higher," a second Midwest buyer said.
"Theyre trying to put the increases through, but they
havent had the bookings yet to support the increase."
In the South, foreign plate
inventory that arrived in the fourth quarter is still being
consumed, sources said. As a result, it has put additional
pressure on plate.
Some 86,887 tonnes of
cut-to-length plate were licensed for import in February,
according to data from the U.S. Commerce Departments
Import Administration. Thats almost double the 44,723
tonnes that arrived in January, although traders said that
little commodity plate is available on the spot market as a
result of depressed U.S. prices.
"(In the South) things are
alright, but theyre still in limbo," a second mill source
said. "Theres still a bit of imported inventory on the
But a brighter outlook could be
ahead, some sources said.
"Things will pick up if
construction picks up," the first buyer said. "Ive been
busy, which is good, but like everyone else were fighting
for orders. Margins just arent where we want them to