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Steel sheet prices slide as outlook mixed

Keywords: Tags  steel sheet, hot-rolled sheet, cold-rolled coil, steel prices, ThyssenKrupp, Catherine Ngai

NEW YORK — Steel sheet prices dropped for a second week, with sources reporting several competitive deals and offers, although market players were mixed over what caused the devaluing in inventory.

"Things are confusing to me," one Midwest service center source told AMM. "A number of (big) mills have lost business because of deals out there, and I don’t know what that means."

Hot-rolled sheet slipped to $32.50 per hundredweight ($650 per ton) from $33.25 per cwt ($665 per ton), with some sources reporting deals in the $32-per-cwt ($640-per-ton) range. Cold-rolled prices fell to $38.50 per cwt ($770 per ton) from $39.50 per cwt ($790 per ton).

The dip in prices could be due to the cold weather, mills being hungry for business after losing out on 2014 contracts or impending imports, but demand hasn’t been terrible, sources said, underscoring the stability in the market.

"I don’t get the impression that business is bad at all," a second Midwest service center source said. "Some mills are being unnecessarily aggressive right now. But my buying pattern hasn’t changed and I’m still going to buy what I need. If I have the opportunity to wait in a falling market, I will."

Others indicated that while the direction for pricing looked negative, a potential uptick in raw material costs in March, an affirmative final decision on an impending trade case vs. imports of oil country tubular goods (OCTG) and the impending sale of Essen, Germany-based ThyssenKrupp AG’s Calvert, Ala., facility could change that pattern.

Still, some were more optimistic, hoping that the recent price slide would be abated in the short run.

"Demand is still out there and things are puttering along," one trader said. "I’m still optimistic, even if there’s more doom and gloom than you can shake a stick at. I’m just hoping this is a market correction."

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