NEW YORK The
steel sheet market has remained firm this week as steady market
activity coupled with stronger end-use markets has provided
market participants some welcome optimism.
goodits been steady and improving in the past few
months, so were grateful for that," a Midwest service
center source said. "This past week was a little spotty because
of the (Independence Day) holiday, but overall, business is
Hot-rolled band prices
held steady this week at $32 per hundredweight ($640 per ton)
f.o.b. Midwest mill, while cold-rolled coil inched up to $37.50
per cwt ($750 per ton) from $37 per cwt ($740 per ton).
Sources attributed the
recent strength largely to supply side disruptions, including
the ongoing lockout at U.S. Steel Corp.s Lake Erie Works
in Nanticoke, Ontario, and an unplanned blast furnace outage at
AK Steel Corp.s Middletown, Ohio, facility.
Earlier this week,
sources said that AK Steel was planning to bring its Middletown
furnace back online July 18 (
amm.com, July 10)earlier than some had
originally expectedbut most sources said they dont
expect the restart to significantly impact the sheet supply as
stronger end markets may help rebalance fundamentals.
"The reality is that
AK will come on a week earlier than what people planned for. I
dont think it changes things, though," a second Midwest
service center source said. "AK was the push that people needed
to get over the hump from a pricing standpoint, but the market
is still strong, automotive is strong and so is construction.
The trade case will also help the pipe and tube market, and
those guys are large spot buyers."
A third Midwest
distributor agreed, noting that lean inventories have helped
make the recent sheet hikes successful. "In my mind, what
helped these last couple of price increases stick to the extent
that they did is a perception ... of a shortage of tons.
Inventories were lean and the mills were happy to jump on
that," he said. "Business is decent. Year to date, its
less good in terms of tons sold, but were still making
decent margins. Demand isnt terrible."
Service center sources
also are reporting that theyve received more foreign
offers of sheet into the Midwest in recent weeks, an area
traditionally shielded from foreign steel due to high
transportation costs. Some wondered whether that was a sign of
weakness in the world markets and questioned if U.S. prices
would hold steady by the time foreign steel arrived stateside
in the fall.
optimistic right now. The best question is the September
question. Will the market still support price levels in the
$32.50 to $33 (per cwt) range? Well see how things go at
the start of September," said a northern source. "But
well have to make hay when the sun is shining. The sun
hasnt been shining in the last year and a half, so this
is a good time."