When the pressure begins, and the cooking surface gets “hot,” that is when you have to be at your best, most nimble and anticipate problems.
USS/POSCO announced new prices late yesterday. We have not heard from California Steel Industries (CSI) on what they are going to do regarding pricing. We have heard from their customers that the mill had 40,000 tons of slabs cancelled by one of their Brazilian suppliers.
As fallout, we heard from a trader that they are taking hot rolled orders out to the West Coast.
We are chasing a rumor that one of the minimills is having a problem with one of the stands at their hot strip mill. As we work with our sources, we are learning that the equipment being down is planned maintenance and not an “outage.”
Be careful of rumors and the spread of rumors. If you are hearing something and are unsure, please contact me and I will do my best to speak to the mill or track down what is real and what is not. Send questions to: info@SteelMarketUpdate.com.
Steel buyers are telling us that ArcelorMittal USA is quoting $800 per ton spot hot rolled right now. Of course, as one steel executive put it, “I think everyone is expecting the next increase to be $800 min, so pretty much a foregone conclusion. As we know also, AM is not really participating in spot, so whatever they do is more symbolic. I jokingly told my guy they should just announce $1,000 since they’re sold out, so that we can just be done with it….”
Buyers are telling us that SDI is trying to figure out what they are going to do with April tonnage (how many tons do they actually have to sell?) and at what price level. A steel buyer told us they got a cold rolled spot price of $46.50/cwt base out of SDI within the last 48 hours.
I heard last week from at least one buyer of galvanized that Nucor was quoting $47.50/cwt base pricing on spot.
Speaking of Nucor, I saw a copy of the Nucor Berkeley lead time sheet this morning. Vanilla hot rolled is being quoted for the week ending April 28 (9 weeks). Under 48 inch add two weeks. Over 55 inch add one week.
Nucor Berkeley cold rolled is the same as hot rolled with more items being out to the week ending May 12 (11 weeks). Galvanized was also in the 9 to 11 week range depending on thickness and width.
I spoke with customers buying from foreign steel suppliers. There continues to be a mixed bag here. Some mills continue to quote and are committed to their customers. Others are backing off to see what happens with the Section 232 announcement. It is all a matter of how risk averse the supplier/mill is.
We heard from one trader who specializes in Turkish material that one mill is the importer of record and they are expected to continue to ship. The others are too risky, and the trader is waiting for Trump’s announcement.
Let’s not forget that zinc is trading at 10-year highs at over $1.60 per pound. Zinc is up $0.20-$0.40 per pound since the last change in extras. Galvanized buyers should plan on another bump in coating extras come second quarter 2018 (the mills might wait until early third quarter).
We will have plenty to talk about at this year’s SMU Steel Summit Conference. Registrations are running about 20 percent higher so far this year than last. We registered 667 last year… We are trying to get a handle on how many people will ultimately attend this year as we have an option of expanding our meeting room to hold as many as 1,200 people. Right now, we are planning on 750-800 executives from across North America and Europe. We anticipate the SMU Steel Summit Conference 2018 will (again) be the largest and best steel conference in North America.
Registration is open on our website: www.SteelMarketUpdate.com/events/steel-summit or you can contact our office at 772-932-7538. Remember, as members you receive a $100 per person discount, and if you are bringing more than one person there is another $100 per person discount there, as well. We can invoice your company, take credit cards, even cash if we need to (sorry, no bitcoin…).
As always, your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.
John Packard, Publisher
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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.