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Down year seen for tool steel market

Keywords: Tags  steel, automotive, tool steel market, Steel & Metals Market Research, SMR, Markus Moll, Metals Service Center Institute, MSCI Rey Mashayekhi

AUSTIN, Texas — Fewer new models from automakers will translate into a down year for the U.S. tool steel market, although medium- to long-term indicators bode better for the industry, according to Steel & Metals Market Research GmbH (SMR).

The Reutte, Austria-based research firm estimates a 5-percent decline in tool steel “market development” in the United States this year, SMR managing director Markus Moll said at the Metals Service Center Institute’s (MSCI’s) Specialty Metals Division Conference in Lost Pines, Texas, this past week. Moll said the decline is predicated on the dynamics of the automotive industry, which “remains the driving force for the tool steel industry.”

Automakers’ production and development of new models has slowed down, Moll said, which is “not a positive indicator” for the tool steel market. “(The target) would be 30 new models a year,” he said of the ideal number of new car models in production from manufacturers. “We had (those figures) in the ’90s.”

SMR’s medium- to long-term outlook was more optimistic, however, with Moll projecting U.S. market growth of 5 percent in 2015. He noted that supply-side indicators were strong, with production figures “generally” up and a drop in overall tool steel imports into North America.

“We’re way below where we were in the past, but at least the momentum on the supply side seems to be up,” he said of U.S. tool steel production levels.

The increased use of composite materials for automotive applications could benefit the tool steel industry, a trend that Moll identified as the “next step in making cars lighter.”

“It’s a risk for steel and aluminum (producers),” Moll said of the proliferation of such composites in automotive manufacturing. “(But) the good thing is it needs tool steels.”

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