LOS ANGELES The structural steel market appears to be "in balance," with buyers of wide-flange beams seeing little reason for pricing to move one way or the other.
"What would be the point?" one Midwest distributor asked, adding that there is little compelling argument for a change.
Distributors, in particular, said that while demand has improved this year compared with 2013, the increase has been "slight" in many cases and volumes still havent regained peaks reached prior to 2008.
Domestic beam producers havent raised their published prices since March 7, when Blytheville, Ark.-based Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. implemented a $20-per-ton ($1-per-hundredweight) increase, which was matched by Tampa, Fla.-based Gerdau Long Steel North America and Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Steel Dynamics Inc.s Structural and Rail division in Columbia City, Ind. (amm.com, March 10). This set the posted f.o.b. mill price on core sizes of wide-flange beams at $41 per cwt ($820 per ton) and has become the actual price for most buyers as discounts have dried up.
However, if hardly anyone expects beam prices to drop, most also see little basis for them to increase. Flat scrap prices are one reason, reflected in AMMs recent decision to hold its consumer buying price for shredded automotive scrap in the Chicago market at $375 per ton.
Logistical problems that hit mills earlier in the year have eased, some buyers said, adding that they are experiencing fewer delays in delivery. At the same time, producer floor stocks appear to have risen, allowing some buyers to pluck beams out of the mills inventories rather than through a future rolling.
"Most of the time we dont even have to wait for material. ... We can pull stuff off the (mill) floor," another Midwest distributor said.
"Availability seems to be getting better all the time," according to another service center buyer.
This years higher beam imports, while not forcing domestic mills to offer discounts, are nonetheless seen as helping to keep a lid on prices.
"Some of the increase in demand is being soaked up by foreign beams," one eastern distributor said. "If we didnt have higher imports this year Im sure wed be seeing (domestic) price hikes."