Steel sheet increases said boosting market

NEW YORK — Nucor Corp. became the latest steelmaker to increase its base prices on sheet products as an increasing number of market participants seem convinced the recent rise in prices may hold some strength.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based steelmaker set prices at $34 per hundredweight ($680 per ton) for hot-rolled coil and $39.50 per cwt ($790 per ton) for cold-rolled and galvanized, it said in an Oct. 3 letter to customers.

The move came after Portage, Ind.-based NLMK USA and Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA LLC kicked off a fresh round of steel sheet price increases earlier this week (amm.com, Sept. 30), which were followed by West Chester, Ohio-based AK Steel Corp., Dearborn, Mich.-based Severstal North America LLC and Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. (amm.com, Oct. 1).

With much of the market publicly on board, and a number of other steelmakers having increased their own prices internally, sources said, the probability of a stabilized and upward moving market may be around the corner.

"We’re talking to mills right now and everyone is saying that it’s going to stick," one Midwest service center source said. "Mill lead times have stayed extended and inventories are still low enough that people can’t afford not to buy."

Hot-rolled prices remained stable this week at $32 per cwt ($640 per ton), with several sources saying they were allowed to purchase orders at old prices before the increase, and cold-rolled prices also were unchanged at $37.50 per cwt ($750 per ton).

The sentiment among market participants contacted by AMM this week seems to have changed drastically from the first half of the year. While several price hikes transpired through the first half of the year, an oversupplied market and a lack of expected seasonal pickup in the first quarter, coupled with import activity, caused much cynicism in announced increases. However, with a supply-side change in the summer, including an unplanned outage at AK Steel’s Middletown, Ohio, furnace (amm.com, June 24), among others, domestic mills successfully passed through several price increases.

"I think this thing has got legs. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw another increase at the end of October, too," a second Midwest service center source said.

Others remained hesitant, however, agreeing that while the rise in price would definitely gain some sort of traction, that traction could be short-lived.

"I think it’ll soon come to a point when domestics are going to start chasing people again," one East Coast service center source said. "My take is that new import offers are back in the market and business has gotten very quiet. Once all the capacity issues come back online—watch out."


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