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.
"Were in a flux right now," one Mid-Atlantic service center source told AMM. "It almost feels like pricing is in free-fall, and Im concerned. But I cant 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 isnt 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. "Were 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 Im not feeling good about it," a Midwest service center source said Feb. 20.