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Structural steel prices trend sideways

Keywords: Tags  steel beams, beam prices, wide-flange beams, shredded scrap, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Structural steel prices continue to move sideways as buyers said their earlier expectations that published tags for beams won’t change appear to be on target.

"I haven’t seen a single letter yet," said a Midwest distributor, referring to mill pricing announcements, which are usually out by this time in the month. "We called a few of them and asked, and they indicate that they’ll remain flat."

AMM earlier this month dropped its consumer buying price for shredded automotive scrap in the Chicago market by $10 to $366 per ton, prompting most buyers to predict that the published f.o.b. mill price on core sizes of wide-flange beams probably wouldn’t move off the current $765 per ton ($38.25 per hundredweight).

Negotiated prices for large buyers are estimated as low as $35 to $36 per cwt at the mill when freight charges are eliminated, although some smaller buyers think that mills are trying to narrow these discounts in certain cases.

Mill stocks appear to be declining, reducing the amount of quick-turnaround material that’s available, which may contribute to an eventual firming. Some buyers said it looks as if they may have to buy certain "bread-and-butter" sizes they’ve been getting off the mill floors instead from future rollings, which could point to a future tightening.

"Some of those floor stocks are looking picked over," a West Coast service center executive said.

Does this mean that the next price moves on beams will be up? A growing number of buyers think so, and most of them agree that this would be enhanced if nonresidential construction comes out of its five-year hibernation.

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