Our next Steel 101: Introduction to Steel Making & Market Fundamentals workshop will be held in the Columbus, Mississippi area on January 19 and 20, 2016. This workshop will include a tour of the SDI Columbus steel mill. We are working on hotel information right now and hope to have the hotel selected by early next week. We already have a waiting list for our January workshop so we encourage those interested to ask questions and register as soon as possible.
I will be in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday of this week attending the Metalcon exhibition. If you are attending Metalcon and would like to spend a few moments with me during the show on Wednesday you can email me at: John@SteelMarketUpdate.com or text me on my cell phone: 770-596-6268. I will only be at the show on Wednesday, October 14, 2015.
I was talking with one of the steel analysts this afternoon and we were debating where we thought the industry was in the cycle. We both were of the opinion the market was close (closer) to a bottom and the question was what would cause the market to rise? An announcement of a lockout was one tipping point mentioned. Another tipping point could possibly be the Preliminary Determination announcement on corrosion resistant steels which is due November 2nd. I mentioned that another tipping point could be a rush to buy as the market players know we are close to a bottom and that the domestic mills – especially US Steel, ArcelorMittal and AK Steel – will have to take down capacity.
We could see a short-term rally in prices, which our analysts put at +$40 per ton and not much more, in the coming weeks. That would put benchmark hot rolled average in the $440-$460 per ton versus our $410 per ton. This is not to say that $390 or $400 is out as a possibility within the next week to two weeks.
Something to think about: Since the beginning of January 2007 the lowest price average on hot rolled coil measured by Steel Market Update was $380 per ton which was reported on June 9, 2009. The market has been in a slow free fall since May 2014 when prices were reported at $685 per ton.
I spoke with a service center executive today who told me it is not demand that is driving prices lower. He said supply is what is driving prices. Supply includes foreign steel at cheap numbers as well as too much domestic chasing the remaining orders.
One of the Galvalume producing mills told me today that prices for AZ have come down $200+ per ton (domestically) and the same $100-$150 per ton spread between foreign and domestic pricing still exists. They questioned me as to how can that be?
I hope to learn more at Metalcon tomorrow.
As always your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.
John Packard, Publisher
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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.
Sheet prices have fallen again this week on shorter lead times, higher imports, and potentially higher inventories. (We’ll see for sure when we release our service center shipment and inventory data next week.) I remember reporting almost exactly the same thing about a month ago and getting a fair amount of pushback. Not so much these days.