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Steel wire rod prices flat but demand lags

Keywords: Tags  Steel wire rod, rod buyers, wire drawers, automotive, construction, scrap, May shipments, June shipments Samuel Frizell


NEW YORK — Activity in the steel wire rod market has failed to meet expectations in May, and both buyers and suppliers say they’ve seen little if any improvement in demand over the past few weeks.

"Nothing has changed," said one rod buyer. "Business is soft."

As a result, sources said they’ve seen no change in transaction prices in recent weeks. AMM’s mesh-quality low-carbon wire rod prices remain unchanged at around $670 per ton ($33.50 per cwt) f.o.b. mill; industrial-quality low-carbon rod is flat at $690 per ton ($34.50 per cwt); high-carbon wire rod is stable at $715 per ton ($35.75 per cwt); and cold-heading-quality material is steady at $770 per ton ($38.50 per cwt), sources said.

"Prices are holding up," said a mill source. "It’s going up and down with scrap pricing, and we don’t see any erosion to the margin."

Wire drawers have reported seeing different levels of activity in different end markets, with demand from construction end-users generally weaker than among automotive suppliers. Wire drawers said that auto sales were strong, but sales into the construction market, as well as furniture and bedding supplies, including innersprings, have yet to kick in.

Meanwhile, rod lead times remain short, with some mills said eager to offload material.

"We placed an order with one of the mills. We needed a couple of rail cars," said a second rod buyer. "We called (a rod mill) at 9 a.m., and they’re literally going to ship us two rail cars tomorrow. That’s just reflective of how short lead times are."

"Lead times are at three weeks," said a second mill source. "It seems like you can get rod any time you want it."

AMM’s consumer scrap buying prices—used as the basis of some mills’ raw material surcharges—settled down about $20 last week across the Midwest (amm.com, May 3), and market participants told AMM that without robust finished steel demand, they expect mills to lower their rod prices for June shipments along with scrap.

"(The mills have) got to be competitive," said the second rod buyer. "People are scrambling for business. From a pricing standpoint, when scrap goes does down, I don’t think everyone has a choice but to follow."

Last week, a number of mills changed their prices for other long products, including rebar and beams, before scrap prices settled (amm.com, May 3), but as of press time, this month’s wire rod prices had not yet been announced.


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