Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard

The Super Bowl is done, the Grammys are behind us, the Oscars selected a foreign film (Parasite from South Korea) for the first time as Best Movie. The Iowa caucus presented more questions than answers. Today is the New Hampshire primary and the first votes finally are being cast to see who the Democrats will nominate to oppose President Trump.

There is a virus coming out of China, the coronavirus, that is rattling the financial markets. We don’t know what impact it will have on the United States. Too early to tell, is what the pundits and the government are saying on TV.

The world continues to spin – both literally and figuratively.

SMU sits here trying to make sense of it all. Well, at least some steel sense.

John Packard Summit 18The SMU Price Momentum Indicator is at Neutral – for a good reason. The steel buyers are unsure as to where prices go from here. We haven’t seen a collapse in lead times. Foreign steel imports are down, and the prices being quoted aren’t anything to write home about. As you saw from this evening’s flat rolled price ranges and averages, there is no clear-cut direction. Some sideways, some up, some down. I am not sure what next week will bring. So, we remain cautious and recommend you stay close to your suppliers.

Today I adjusted Plate Momentum to be Neutral as it appears to be sitting and waiting for something to push plate prices in one direction or another. I will have more on plate later this week.

Later this week you will get your first “taste” of the full agenda for the 2020 SMU Steel Summit Conference. I am very pleased with the balance and tone that I think we are trying to set for this year’s conference.

So, I want to make a couple of observations from my perspective about the 2020 conference. There will be lots of forecasts – about the general economy, about steel prices, commodity prices and the key market segments that impact the steel industry (construction, automotive and energy). We will bring in some color about the rest of the world as we discuss the global economy, China, mill costs and the challenges of climate change and what the rest of the world is doing to address it. (Sooner or later the U.S. will have to sing a similar tune as Europe and elsewhere – when, who knows?)

We have a couple of mill CEO’s who are in the news and important to what the industry will look like over the next one, five and ten years into the future. We all know what SDI and Nucor are doing. It’s time to look at U.S. Steel and AK Steel along with Cleveland-Cliffs, which supplies the integrated mills with iron ore and is looking to supply HBI and pig iron to the minimills. We have the key CEOs of these companies speaking at this year’s conference.

I took the suggestion by one of our readers and a past attendee to our conference that we have a panel of steel buyers who can provide insights about the markets from their perspective. We will have a diverse group covering the agriculture, automotive, construction, yellow products and distribution sectors.

I am especially excited about the Wednesday afternoon portion of our agenda. After the Michael Smerconish Keynote about the political landscape and what to expect over the next few months and then into 2021, we will have three programs focused on attracting, training and maintaining young people in your organization. I saw Ryan Avery speak at the annual HARDI conference in December and I was duly impressed. He spoke on two topics, but I am asking him to focus on his ideas regarding what companies need to do to be THE leader in your industry by attracting young talent, and then keeping it engaged (or maybe it will be the young people keeping you engaged).  Another program will provide insights from what the U.S. military is doing and perhaps what your company is missing out on when it comes to young people. Finally, we will have two companies, one manufacturer and one distributor, who are building organizations looking toward the future – and being very successful in the process. Plan on staying until we end at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

You will be able to learn more about the conference agenda by Thursday of this week. I plan on publishing it in the Thursday evening issue of Steel Market Update, and it will be on our website.

There are only 350(ish) rooms left in our hotel block.

Pricing for the 2020 conference is the same as 2019. We have never been out to take advantage of our clients. This year is no exception. One of the ways we are able to do this is through our sponsors. We do have some good sponsorship spots open. If you would like information about becoming a sponsor (or an exhibitor), contact Jill Waldman at

My recommendation is to register for the conference and make your room reservations as far in advance as possible. We are anticipating 1,200 attendees this year, and our early registrations are way ahead of last year’s pace. You can register for the conference by clicking here.

Early registrations for the next Steel 101 workshop are also strong. You can find out more details about the March 31-April 1, 2020 workshop, which will be held in Merrillville, Ind., and will include a tour of the NLMK Portage steel facility by going to or you can register by clicking here.

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

John Packard, President & CEO

Latest in Final Thoughts