NEW YORK U.S. steel sheet
prices look stable this week, although players are mixed about
the direction of a market plagued by short lead times and
"I know the mills were talking
firm on the increases, but they came to me late last week and
had more of a what do you need kind of tone again,"
one Midwest buyer said. "Im not sure if the price
increases are standing. Theyre trying, but the market is
Recently slated $50-per-ton
increases havent translated into transaction price hikes
in that amount, mill and buyer sources said, but they have
eliminated many of the barrel-scraping discounts seen in the
days leading up to the move (
amm.com, March 7).
Many attributed the absence of a
real pricing upswing to the lack of a seasonal uptick since the
start of the year. Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C., said March 14
that first-quarter earnings look depressed after failing to see
an anticipated pickup (
amm.com, March 14).
"I think the reality is that
user demand is just not robust. The first two, two-and-a-half
months of this year were less busy than the same period last
year for me," a second Midwest buyer said. "For me, thats
a bellwether of whats going on in the marketplace."
Hot-rolled sheet held steady at
$31 per hundredweight ($620 per ton), sources said, with most
deals done at $30.50 to $31 per cwt. Others said prices below
$30 per cwt were unseen.
Relatively high raw steel output
continues to depress tags, market players said. U.S. raw steel
output totaled nearly 1.83 million net tons last week (
amm.com, March 12).
"Its a little starch in
the laundry," the first buyer said. "Theres still too
many people chasing too little business. At the end of the day,
its about supply and demand. The mills can talk about
cost and what their costs are, but the conversations are moot.
If you can buy tons at mill A lower than at mill B, nothing
Business, while lackluster, has
remained stable, and lead times remain in a range of two to
"I think the mills are up.
Id say maybe half of the increase has stuck, but lead
times have not extended at all. People are buying very small
orders and buying what they need," a third Midwest buyer
While there was some chatter in
the market this week about the potential for another price
hike, some said there might not be enough strength for one in
the near term.
"Lead times are short, and that
has people worried about making another price increase. I
havent heard of anything yet," a fourth Midwest buyer
said. "On the demand side, were doing fine. Am I
optimistic about prices? My head is in the sand and I
cant get my arms around it."
Looking forward, though, some
sources are wary that the stability in prices could be
"Fundamentally, the only thing
thats changed is the scrap number. Lead times
havent pushed out. The supply vs. demand problem is
preventing the increase," a fifth Midwest buyer said.
"Theres not a real bright future for the increase. They
(the mills) have their backs against the wall on scrap input
costs, so they have to be strong and hold."