NEW YORK The
U.S. steel plate sector remains fairly stagnant as lackluster
demand and squeezed margins continue to plague the market,
"Were in a
malaise here. Were just kind of hanging around," one
plate mill source told AMM. "Volumes are relatively
unchanged, but its just that malaise has settled into the
plate market. There are skinny margins and were not
expecting to see much movement."
Although steel sheet
prices have been moving up steadily in recent weeks, the
domestic plate market has been less robust, accepting only a
portion of the $60-per-ton increase announced in the spring and
prices actually losing some ground in the first week of June
amm.com, June 7).
Sources said steel
plate prices were steady this past week at around $35.50 per
cwt ($710 per ton) f.o.b. Midwest mill, although some said
larger tonnages could be had at closer to $34.50 to $35 per cwt
($690 to $700 per ton).
had previously said that increased offers of Turkish, Taiwanese
and South Korean plate were causing downward pressure on plate
prices, but a number of sources said it now appears that
increased competition at the service center level, rather than
imports, is the main factor pressuring the market.
"Plate is pretty
stagnant. Prices have shaved down a little bit (and)
competition is still pretty rough," a Midwest service center
source said. "The service center guys arent restocking,
and prices from the other distributors are all over the
Meanwhile, imports are
flowing into the United States at a slower pace than they were
at this time last year, data show. Last summer, starting in
May, the United States saw five consecutive months of
cut-to-length plate imports north of the 100,000-tonne mark;
this year, just 61,313 tonnes hit U.S. shores in May,
preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data show, and some 70,275
tonnes were set to arrive in June, well below last years
tallies, according to license data from Commerce
Departments Import Administration.
"This year has been
different. We havent seen the surge of imports. Its
nothing like that," the mill source said. "The fact is that
theres just not enough demand to keep prices up
domestically. Certainly, no one is talking about some sort of
ramp-up in the second half."
If the sheet market
continues to pick up, however, plate sources are hopeful that
could signal a bright spot ahead for their markets as well. But
if the momentum on sheet is short-lived, optimism for plate may
not materialize, sources said.
"For the sheet world,
I think were in the calm before the storm," a second
Midwest service center source said. "This could be good for
plate, but what ultimately concerns me is if demand
doesnt increase substantially (for sheet). Come August,
September, when all of these blast furnaces are repaired and
come back online, that could cause a downward slide."