Steel Products Prices North America

Plate Prices in Play, But Not Much Confidence

Written by John Packard

Despite the Oct. 28 plate price increase announcement out of Evraz ($40/ton), plate prices continue to be under pressure. [Please note: This article was completed just prior to the Nucor $40 price increase announcement, which was made on plate products at 4 p.m. this afternoon.]

A large plate buyer told SMU they had just received a $40/ton reduction in spot pricing this week. However, they did feel the market may be close to a bottom, and they had heard talk of a price increase.

Other plate buyers were skeptical of any potential of a price increase that would stick until lead times move into first-quarter or early second-quarter 2020.

steel plateAnother large plate buyer told SMU, “I think there’s a lot of desire to raise prices, but the fact that nobody followed Evraz on their announcement last week is very telling. Plate pricing remains in a tailspin and lead times are still very short. I fully expect a second sheet increase before plate, but I’m sure they’ll try before the year is done.”

A plate service center told us when asked about the mixed messages we had been receiving in the market regarding plate, “Indeed many variables at the moment. Positives: plate inventories shrinking, imports basically non-existent, scrap seems to have bottomed. Not so positives: Hertford just today claims they turned the calendar to December, Tusc [Nucor Tuscaloosa] still three weeks max, plate demand average at best, SC [service centers] giving away product, and we are entering the slow time of year. All said, the rumblings of Nucor and ArcelorMittal leading price increases is alive and well. With short lead times it will be tough to implement, coupled with I hear all plate mills are begging for December orders… [It] would be nice to see a line drawn in the sand, but if one has an order to place the price is very negotiable. From a SC [service center] standpoint, I would like to see the mills increase and stand firm. Today it does not feel like demand and short lead times will support an increase. But hey, this is the steel business, and nothing surprises me anymore.”

A large service center told SMU, “All mills are talking about raising the price, but they aren’t confident about getting anything. Service centers don’t want to order much of anything before the end of the year and neither do customers. I don’t think we pull out of this until late Q1 or early Q2. Once we hit bottom, we will probably hang around it for a month or two.”

Steel Market Update spent a good portion of today communicating with a variety of major plate buyers across the United States. What we found is continued weakness in the plate markets highlighted by extremely short lead times.

ArcelorMittal USA plate lead times were being quoted to multiple plate buyers as being as short as four weeks (short for an integrated steel mill) to eight weeks depending on product (and if tied to a contract).

Nucor Tuscaloosa lead times were being referenced as being three to four weeks on discrete plate and two weeks for cut-to-length coil.

Nucor Hertford lead times were reported as being mid to late November delivery for AS rolled and early December for quench and tempered.

SSAB lead times were reported to be six weeks for AS rolled and late November for quench and tempered.

Algoma was reported to have three- to four-week lead times on plate.

Evraz and JSW USA, we were told, could roll plate in a week or two depending on item and slab availability (working from inventory).

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