Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard


I am here in New York City participating in the Cowen & Company Global Metals and Mining Conference. Day one was dedicated to the steel industry and the various commodities (scrap, iron ore, metallurgical coal). I thought I would provide a snapshot into some of the comments made during the conference by various CEO’s.

Lourenco Goncalves, CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources told the group that the preliminary countervailing duty results on the CORE trade suit “was better than expected.” He pointed to the 1998 hot rolled case that he was involved in saw much lower preliminary duties than what were announced last week.

Jim Wainscott, CEO of AK Steel (about to become Chairman of the Board) said, “There is no doubt in my mind that prices could pop back to previous levels [earlier he referenced $650 per ton].” He backed off the initial enthusiasm when he went on to say, “We will return to normal levels, whatever that means.”

Gregg Mollins, CEO of Reliance Steel & Aluminum said the service centers apparently did not learn their lesson in 2009 when it came to inventories. He said when distributors have bad years it is almost always related to inventory levels. He told the group that Reliance managed their inventories, they don’t speculate and they were able to raise margins during 2015.

Mario Longhi, CEO of US Steel said that they are spending time with the ITC commissioners as they want to make sure they have an understanding of “injury” which previously had been taken totally out of context.

Jim Wainscott told the group, “You have to play hardball with China.”

The CEO’s pointed out that the prices outside of China are $20 to $30 per ton higher than when China is involved in exporting steel to that country.

On a personal front I was able to secure one of our keynote speakers for next year’s Steel Summit Conference… (August 30-31, 2016 in Atlanta).

As always your business is truly appreciated.

John Packard, Publisher

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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?