I want to take a moment to welcome everyone back to your offices and back to the daily reality that is the steel business. I think everyone is happy that 2015 is behind us and that everyone is looking forward to a new year and new opportunities.
I will keep it brief this evening as not much has happened since we last spoke.
As always your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.
Best wishes to everyone for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
John Packard, Publisher
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Latest in Final Thoughts
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.
What’s something going on in the market that no one is talking about? That’s a question on our survey, and was also posed to many who graced the stage at our Tampa Steel Conference. Perhaps another way to phrase that is “not talking about publicly” or connecting the dots of steel market chatter to find a uniting central issue. I thought one respondent to our survey really summed up the current moment: “Right now it is all politics.”