NEW YORK Domestic steel
mills have successfully pushed carbon plate prices back up to
early January levels as stable demand and expectations of
further seasonal improvement have allowed suppliers to capture
much of the $60-a-ton price hikes announced during the first
"The mills look to be holding
firm on the recent $60-per-ton increase that they announced
over the month of March," said one Midwest service center
source. "Im not confident that itll all stick
throughout April ... but the mills have gotten sick of losing
money and I cant blame them."
Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor
Corp. and Lisle, Ill.-based SSAB Americas both hiked plate
prices some $30 per ton in early March following increases of
the same amount announced at the end of February (
amm.com, March 8). Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA LLC
had earlier increased its published plate prices by $60 per ton
in a single move (
amm.com, Feb. 22).
And according to mill and buyer
sources, much of that announced increase is starting to gain
traction. This past week, AMMs average
transacted carbon plate price increased slightly to $740 per
ton ($37 per hundredweight) f.o.b. Midwest mill from $720 per
ton ($36 per cwt) the previous week, with some citing
transactions in recent days as high as $760 per ton ($38 per
Sources pointed to mill outages,
including SSABs planned outage in Montpelier, Iowa, as
one factor lending strength to the hike. Additionally, buyers
reported that business activity has picked up, with many saying
that increased quoting activity from end-users has resulted in
"March was a good booking month
for us. Weve added more hours in the shop. Demand has
been good," said a second Midwest service center source.
"Were busy and quoting a
lot. There seems to be a lot happening," a third Midwest
service center source agreed. "Overall, business in general
seems to have picked up."
Lead times were generally
reported to be steady this past week, with most mills in the
five- to six-week range. Although one mill was said to be still
rolling narrower-width material for shipment at the end of
April, the overall sentiment was that things were pointing in a
But while the market looks to be
on the incline, uncertainty over future demand continued to
loom. "Of course, Im not sure whats going to happen
in the second half, so Im not getting overly optimistic,"
the second Midwest source said.
Some also questioned whether
that strength will hold after a number of Midwest cities saw
scrap prices settle down some $20 per gross ton in April
amm.com, April 4).
At the same time, hot-rolled
sheet prices, which at times have mirrored plate tags, have
seen slippage in recent weeks on the back of oversupply in the
sector, which caused some to think twice about the direction of
the plate market is headed in coming weeks.
"Business has been fair, and
having some mills out of commission has helped," said one mill
source. "At the same time, the firmness (in prices) is a
limited-period feeling. Every week, HRC (hot-rolled coil) is
falling. The plate market is different, but often, theyve
run parallel. Will things change? No one can predict."
On the import side, sales of
foreign plate have been less than robust, particularly as
foreign plate prices have not been attractive enough to sell in
the first quarter. Although preliminary data for February from
the U.S. Census Bureau shows 86,319 tonnes of foreign
cut-to-length plate arrived in the U.S. during that
monthmarking a return to highs last reported in
Octobersources said much of that volume was slated for
specific, one-off projects. March license applications fell to
53,186 tonnes according to data from the U.S. Department of
Commerces Import Administration