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Steel market hesitant on sheet pricing

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

PHOENIX — Steel sheet prices were mainly flat this past week but sources expressed uncertainty ahead as declining raw material costs and cold weather continue to put downward pressure on the market.

Hot-rolled sheet prices have held steady at $32.50 per hundredweight ($650 per ton), although cold-rolled slipped to $38.25 per cwt ($765 per ton) from $38.50 per cwt ($770 per ton) previously. Lower-priced deals were heard in the market from certain mills, with some sources citing hot-rolled prices closer to $31.50 per cwt ($630 per ton) for larger volumes.

"We’re in a flux right now," one Mid-Atlantic service center source told AMM. "It almost feels like pricing is in free-fall, and I’m concerned. But I can’t quite tell how business is until we get more clarity from the weather."

One end-user said he purchased "last-minute tons" in recent weeks to fill gaps due to the winter weather, while a trader said he had been unable to deliver product in a timely fashion because East Coast ports had closed operations so frequently due to severe weather.

"Business isn’t terrible for us. The problem is getting steel delivered because of the bad weather," an East Coast service center source said.

A West Coast buyer said pricing seemed to have become more "volatile" in recent months due to the majority of expired index-minus deals and the end of bucket deals. "We’re probably going to see more swings from now on," he said.

Other sources said they were going to hold off restocking inventory, particularly with pricing direction uncertain and market discussion over another decrease in March.

"I know I have to buy next week and I’m not feeling good about it," a Midwest service center source said Feb. 20.

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