Our ferrous scrap sources told us that Detroit scrap prices were settled earlier today where all of the prices were reported as being sideways (no change from June pricing) with the exception of shredded scrap which was reported as being down $10 to three mills, sideways to another and one mill being undecided. We will have much more on ferrous scrap prices on Thursday as negotiations come to a final resolution.
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Our first keynote speaker will be Dr. Chris Kuehl of Armada Corporate Intelligence. Here is something that they wrote in this evening’s report, “We wrote months ago about the plummeting of iron ore and steel in China and thought at the time that it might be an early indicator of problems mounting in the country at a street level. We also wrote about some small bankruptcies that had started where (for the first time in years); the Chinese Central Bank was not stepping in to bail those companies out. They were letting them go under. The Chinese manufacturing sector has been in contraction for most of 2015 and the Baltic Dry Index hit an all-time low this spring. The evidence was there, if we were willing to pay attention to it. The fact that Chinese manufacturing and output is weak during a time when the US dollar is very strong (which would make acquisition of products from China very cheap), should concern us even further. Something at a fundamental, market level is very wrong in the country.” The world is a crazy place and it does impact the U.S. markets – including the steel industry and end user markets.
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Latest in Final Thoughts
Domestic prices have been sliding since the beginning of the year, and I don’t see any obvious reasons why the slide might stop this week. But let’s put the timing of a bottom aside for a minute. The question among some of you seems to be whether we’ll see another price spike, or at least a “dead-cat bounce,” before the typical summer doldrums kick in.
I’ve had discussions with some of you lately about where and when sheet prices might bottom. Some of you say that hot-rolled (HR) coil prices won’t fall below $800 per short ton (st). Others tell me that bigger buyers aren’t interested unless they can get something that starts with a six. Obviously a lot depends on whether we're talking 50 tons or 50,000 tons. I've even gotten some guff about how the drop in US prices is happening only because we’re talking about it happening.
We’ve all heard a lot about mill “discipline” following a wave of consolidation over the last few years. That discipline is often evident when prices are rising, less so when they are falling. I remember hearing earlier this year that mills weren’t going to let hot-rolled (HR) coil prices fall below $1,000 per short ton (st). Then not below $900/st. Now, some of you tell me that HR prices in the mid/high-$800s are the “1-800 price” – widely available to regular spot buyers. So what comes next, and will mills “hold the line” in the $800s?
Everyone knows the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. A lot of inked has been spilled trying to figure out why prices are falling now. I thought it might be as simple as this: Market dynamics in the fourth quarter (UAW strike, companies buying ahead of an anticipated post-strike price spike, etc.) pulled forward restocking activity that typically happens in the first quarter.
What a difference a month makes. There are a few full bulls left in the room, but their numbers are dwindling. We’ll release results of our full steel market survey tomorrow afternoon. I took a sneak peak at the data on Thursday. And more people than I expected think that US hot-rolled (HR) coil prices will be in the $700s per short ton (st) two months from now. Vanishingly few think prices will be above $1,000/st in mid-April.