SMU Data and Models

SMU Service Center Flat Rolled and Plate Steel Inventories

Written by John Packard

Beginning in July 2018, Steel Market Update has been recruiting flat rolled and plate steel service centers to participate in our monthly analysis. Our goal is to produce a quality data stream out of the service centers, which can help answer questions regarding future demand from the steel distributors. We provided data sources with our SMU “Flash” report last week, which gave a quick early view of how 50 percent or more of the distributors were reporting their inventories. This report is our full analysis for the month.

Flat Rolled Inventories Stable

With 91 percent of our data providers reporting, flat rolled inventories at the end of May 2018 averaged 2.7 months of supply, which is the same number posted at the end of April.

We saw 42 percent of the distributors reporting higher inventories than the month earlier. Another 10 percent said their inventories remained the same. The largest percentage, 48 percent, was for those who reported inventories as being lower.

We have been doing some new analysis that we can now offer to our readers. The lowest inventory level reported was 1.75 months of supply, up from 1.2 months of supply reported as of the end of April. It was not the same company reporting the low inventory levels.

The highest inventory level reported was 5.40 months of supply. This was down from 6.40 months of supply reported last month by the same service center.

Plate Months of Supply Declined

With 100 percent of our plate data providers responding, we saw the number of months of supply drop from 2.20 months to 2.0 months. This is from the end of April until the end of May 2018.

Of the plate respondents, 24 percent reported higher inventories, 38 percent the same inventories, and the balance of 38 percent said their inventories were lower.

What Are Your Suppliers Telling You Regarding Future Price Direction?

• “Great question. Domestically, they’re trying to keep it reasonable, but just the supply vs. demand equation for the next two or three months dictates there will be pressure upwards. After that, all things staying the same (big assumption), you have to believe imports will come back in volume and there will be a correction downward. But the extent and duration are probably the better questions today.”

• “Several mills have suggested we may see another increase. A couple others believe we will see consistent pricing with no increase imminent.”

• “For the first time in my career, I’ve been told by mills that they think current prices are “about right,” and they both expressed concern about a market perception of gouging. Not sure that this phenomenon will hold up, as I still expect some mill(s) to raise it further.”

• “Happy, but still in a state of flux. The Algoma tariff is really creating an issue in our whole region. I believe another price increase is around the corner….”

• “Flat, I don’t see any reason to lower or raise them. The mills continue to talk increases, but nothing yet.”

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