NEW YORK The
U.S. steel sheet market was stable this past week as extended
lead times helped mills hold the line on higher pricing,
sources said, although some raised concerns over how long the
stability would last, particularly with competitive and
attractive imports set to arrive in the middle of the first
With just days before
Thanksgiving, a traditionally sluggish period for the sector,
service centers and mills are reporting stable order entries,
as traders also cite a pickup in business as a result of higher
pricing, razor-thin inventory levels and longer lead times.
pretty busy relative to it being a week before Thanksgiving,"
one Midwest service center source said. "The thing is that
people are keeping their inventories low and weve been
able to move our pricing up as well."
Earlier this month, AK
Steel Corp., West Chester, Ohio, and Severstal North America
Inc., Dearborn, Mich., raised sheet prices, solidifying a
previous increase (
amm.com, Nov. 7).
The recent increase
wasnt officially followed by other steelmakers, but some
buyers said this past week they were told by their mill sales
representatives that another increase might be around the
Others doubted that
this would happen, though, due to the pricing differential
between domestic material and imports.
prices remain unchanged at $33.75 per hundredweight ($675 per
ton) f.o.b. mill Midwest, with sources confirming transactions
closer to $33 per cwt ($660 per ton) on larger orders at
certain mills. Cold-rolled sheet remains at $39 per cwt ($780
per ton) while smaller orders were put at $39.50 to $40 per cwt
($790 to $800 per ton) f.o.b. Midwest mill.
A number of mills are
said to have closed out their hot-rolled books for December, as
cold-rolled lead times have been pushed into mid-January,
sources said. While buyers remain hesitant over loading up on
product, the result has helped mills achieve higher prices.
"Our bookings are good
and our lead times are solid," one mill source said. "Lead
times are mostly into January and inventories are collapsed at
every step. Everyone is buying hand to mouth."
But, theres fear
about just how many boats will arrive in the New Year, with
some wondering if competitive foreign material will hurt
a little bit of inventory hedging on the foreign side," the
mill source said. "Were at the ($100-per-ton) range right
now between foreign and domestic, and theres fear that if
the gap gets any wider the flood gates might open up."
arriving c.i.f. the Port of Houston was sold at $28 to $29.50
per cwt ($560 to $590 per ton) sources said, while cold-rolled
edged higher this week to between $34 and $35 per cwt ($680 and
$700 per ton) on higher offers from Chinese and Taiwanese
"Weve been very
busy lately, but demand hasnt changed at all; its
the pricing," one trader said. "Quantities have changed
dramatically, and the same people who have put most of their
buys traditionally into domestics are now moving a larger
percentage into foreign."
Another trader agreed,
noting that business has seen a meaningful pickup for customers
in a variety of end markets. However, he said the fear of large
quantities arriving stateside might be overstated.
definitely been getting better and everyone is feeling pretty
good about it," a second trader said. "People in the
construction markets are talking about how the year is looking
to end off pretty good and next year should be better. Of
course were going to see imports, but I dont think
itll be a flood."
Two more importers
added that business continues to look busy, particularly on
renewed interest and business is looking to be pretty good," a
third trader said.