Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard

I spent the second half of last week in Tampa where I was the master of ceremonies for the 31st Tampa Steel Conference hosted by the Port of Tampa.

John Anton, IHS Markit Director of Steel Analytics / Pricing and Purchasing Service, provided the key economic and steel forecast for the group. He told the attendees that 2020 will look a lot like 2019. What that means is, “We’re busy but we’re not as busy as we need to be.”

He pegged U.S. GDP growth at 2 percent, however, manufacturing growth is forecast to be minus (-) 1 percent.

Anton said auto production has been running at 17.3 to 17.6 million units for years. This was caused by the sharp drop in 2009-2010 and the subsequent rebound. However, his forecast for autos for 2020 is 16.5 million units. He put that into perspective by saying a good year prior to the crash of 2008 was 15.6 million units. So, 16.5 million is still a very sold year for automotive.

John Packard Summit 18His forecast for benchmark hot rolled is $640 to $650 per ton by the end of the year (SMU was at $585 per ton last week).

Iron ore will settle around $70 per dry metric ton.

Despite who wins the election this November, Anton expects the Section 232 tariffs to remain in place.

Of course, the wild card (or black swan that is out there) is the coronavirus. If Chinese manufacturing plants remain closed through the end of February, there could be severe repercussions due to lack of parts here in the United States.

I also moderated a trade panel with Phil Bell, President of the Steel Manufacturers Association; Dave Sumoski, Executive Vice President, Merchant and Rebar Products for Nucor; Richard Chriss, President of the American Institute for International Steel; and John Foster, President of Kurk Orban Partners and Chairman of the AIIS.

The panel discussed a few trade-related topics – mostly related to Section 232 tariffs. There was a discussion about the AIIS challenge to the constitutionality of the Section 232 authority that President Trump used to try to prevent imports of foreign steel into the U.S. Recently, AIIS argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals. Most likely whoever loses will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. This case could last for a while….

There was much conversation in the hallways of the Tampa hotel hosting the Tampa Steel Conference about the 2020 SMU Steel Summit Conference. Many of the companies at the Tampa conference plan on attending our conference on Aug. 24-26. Our registrations as of the beginning of last week already had exceeded the registration levels achieved in mid-March 2019. We have been putting together a great program from beginning to end. You can click here to register for the 2020 event (pricing has not changed from 2019).

We are also booking our next Steel 101 workshop, which will be held in Merrillville, Ind., on March 31-April 1, 2020. We will be touring the NLMK Portage steel mill. You can click here or go to to register.

I will be in the office all this week. I am not traveling again until late the 27th of February.

If you need information about renewing your membership, upgrading or adding more people to an existing membership, or if you would like to subscribe, please contact Paige Mayhair at 724-720-1012 or by email:

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

John Packard, President & CEO

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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.