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Steel plate prices up on lead times, lean stocks

Keywords: Tags  steel plate prices, SSAB Americas, Nucor, ArcelorMittal USA, Evraz, Catherine Ngai

NEW YORK — Steel plate prices rose this past week on extended lead times, low inventory levels by service centers and a pickup in orders at the mill, sources said.

Since early October, Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp., Lisle, Ill.-based SSAB Americas and Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA LLC have each raised steel plate prices by $3.50 per hundredweight ($70 per ton) in an effort to get more value for their product.

Buyers and mill sources noted that higher raw material costs and the announced idling of Evraz Inc. North America’s Claymont, Del., facility were contributing factors.

Since the increases, service centers strapped by lean inventories have had no choice but to buy, particularly with prices on the upside and lead times from some mills that are said to stretch into 2014, buyers and sellers said.

"We’ve had good performance in a few markets, but it’s still bad in a few others. They kind of outweigh each other," one mill source said. "We’re doing OK. I don’t get the sense that this is the beginning of some rapid upturn, but it’s modest activity—some restocking and steady demand."

Discrete plate transacted at $37 per cwt ($740 per ton) f.o.b. mill Midwest this past week, up from $36 per cwt ($720 per ton) the previous week. Plate prices are also up from early October prices of $35 per cwt ($700 per ton).

Opinions were mixed on the resale market, particularly as some buyers indicated that they could purchase plate from a master distributor for less than from a mill, causing continued squeezed margins and difficult conditions.

"They (master distributors) are just giving it up. They’re not selling by replacement costs," one Northeast service center source said. "It’s not making any sense."

However, other sources said that the resale market has gained some traction, although margins remained squeezed.

"There’s no real pickup in demand. We don’t know any immediate needs for large capital projects right now," a Midwest service center source said. "The demand side has slowed down for us a little in the last two weeks or so. We’ve also had to cut some hours back."

However, others said that even with higher pricing possibly enticing buyers toward competitive import offers, those arrivals wouldn’t happen until at least February, leaving room for domestic mills to hold on to higher prices.

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