NEW YORK Steel
sheet prices stayed steady this week as market participants
reported an uptick in activity, defying
a traditional seasonal slowdown
"Business has been
decent, and our shipping rate has been higher than it was a
year ago," said one Midwest service center source. "Demand
hasnt faltered in the August period like it can in a
typical summer. Some people are thinking that September and
October could be a little better, and it very well might be.
The market is reasonably tight and mills are kind of holding
their own on the pricing front."
remained steady at $33 per hundredweight ($660 per ton) while
cold-rolled marked time at $38 per cwt ($760 per ton), although
larger tonnages could be had at closer to $37.50 per cwt ($750
While booking activity
has picked up for service centers, margins remain tight on the
back of oversupply at the distribution level. With end
customers unwilling to accept some of the higher pricing
thats been sustained since May, buyers and sellers are
unsure what will happen in the fall.
"All our end customers
believe that pricing drops in the fall because thats what
has happened in the last four years," said one northern service
center source. "The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
But, we have to get out of that mindset. The entire supply
chain needs to make money."
Others agreed and said
that margins have been squeezed despite an uptick in volumes
because too many service centers are chasing the same pockets
"Business is stable,
but the competition has remained very aggressive in my market,"
said a second Midwest service center source.
Some reasoned that the
market has continued to remain strong in the latter part of
August due to lingering supply-side constraints. While a number
of such issues have been resolved, the market may stay taunt
due to the ongoing lockout at U.S. Steel Corp.s Lake Erie
Works in Nanticoke, Ontario,
(amm.com, Aug. 9) coupled with an unplanned blast
furnace outage at ArcelorMittal USA LLCs Indiana Harbor
amm.com, Aug. 14), ArcelorMittals Cleveland
amm.com, June 19) heading into a reline next month
and an upgrade in the coming months at Nucor Corp.s
Berkeley mill in Charleston, S.C., (
amm.com, July 19).
"The major issue is
availability; if you dont have product on the floor, you
cant buy it anywhere. Any orders you have booked right
now are late because things have tightened," said one Northeast
service center source. "We have customers who have given us
blanket orders through October and we just dont have the
steel. I think (mill) prices will remain strong through October
and early November, but after that, its anyones
Import activity has
also picked up, a number of traders said, particularly on
competitively priced cold-rolled and coated materials, although
hot-rolled deals were quiet.
"Things have been
pretty good and steady," said one trader. "Demand and shipments
look good across the board. Our booking activity has been
steady lately and Ive actually been busy."