Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard

The question I am getting right now is, “Where is price momentum headed?” Good question.

The SMU Price Momentum Indicator continues to point toward higher prices over the next 30 days. However, we are not blind, and we have seen prices stall here at the beginning of the year. The way I am looking at this “stall” is the market digesting the rapid rise in spot prices we have seen since the end of October. Spot prices are up $100 to $140 per ton on hot rolled. The low point for hot rolled was $470 per ton reported on Oct. 22, 2019. This evening we are reporting HRC spot prices as averaging $585 per ton, down $5 per ton from one week ago.

I am looking at momentum every day. I do not want to be the catalyst that pushes prices lower, but as many steel buyers know – it is rare for flat rolled prices to move sideways for too long. Prices seem to be either moving up, or they are moving down….

John Packard Summit 18There is a lot of anxiety at the buyer level as they sit and wait for a sign of which way the price winds are blowing. As they sit, they are aware of the decent shipment rates moving out of their facilities. As of the end of December, SMU had service center inventories as being “balanced” to slightly higher than balanced. In other words, from our perspective there does not need to be an immediate buying binge, with the possible wild card being how strong demand is and how quickly material will begin to move.

I am also looking out to April when U.S. Steel will take down Great Lakes and begin a 48-day outage on their #4 blast furnace at Gary Works. They are building inventories of slabs, so there should not be a huge impact on day one, but we need to watch this and other developments within the industry carefully.

Speaking of U.S. Steel, this evening the mill called to inform me that David Burritt, CEO of U.S. Steel, will participate in a fireside chat with me at this year’s SMU Steel Summit Conference. This will be the first time the USS CEO has participated in our conference. With the Mon Valley project, the purchase of 49.9 percent of Big River Steel and the completion of their EAF in Birmingham for their pipe mill…. Well, the mill is making some interesting moves and I think our attendees will be quite interested in what he has to say.

I looked at the conference registration statistics earlier today and we are running one month ahead of 2019 rates. We already have as many executives registered as we did in mid-March of last year. You can go to to learn more, and you can click here to register.  Remember, SMU and CRU members receive discounts for their memberships, and any company that registers more than one person receives an extra $100 per person discount. We kept prices the same as 2019 – even as we have expanded the conference and the services we will be providing. Come join 1,200 of your industry friends (or new friends) in Atlanta on Aug. 24-26, AND if your company is involved in the aluminum business stay the week to participle in the CRU Aluminum Market Update conference, which will be held at the Marriott Gateway next door to the Georgia International Convention Center.

Also, please note that we have a limited number of sponsorship slots available, and we have a number of exhibition spaces as well. For more information about becoming a sponsor or exhibitor at the largest flat rolled and plate steel conference in North America, please contact

I will be in Tampa for the balance of this week participating in the Port of Tampa Steel Conference.

I will check my emails as much as possible. You can also reach out to if you have newsletter-related questions/suggestions, if you are having issues with logins or other website questions, and if you would like to renew, upgrade or become a subscriber to one of our newsletters (Executive or Premium).

As always, your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.

John Packard, President & CEO

Latest in Final Thoughts

Final thoughts

What's the tea in the steel industry this week? Here's the latest SMU gossip column! Just kidding... kind of. Yes, some of the comments we receive in our weekly flat-rolled market steel buyers' survey are honestly too much to put into print. Some make us laugh. Some make us cringe. Some are cryptic. Most are serious. We appreciate them all. Below are some highlights from our survey results this week. Some of the comments that we can share with you are also included, in italics, in the buyers' own words, with minimal editing on our part.

Final thoughts

Unless you've been under a rock, you know by know that Nucor's published HR price for this week is $760 per short ton, down $65/st from the company’s $825/st a week ago. I could use more colorful words. But I think it’s safe to say that most of the market was not expecting this. For starters, US sheet mills never announce price decreases. (OK, not never. It has come to my attention that Severstal North America rescinded a price increase back on Feb. 14, 2012. And it caused quite the ruckus.)