Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard


There is going to be a rush of bad news flooding televised and online media. Here at Steel Market Update, we and our parent company The CRU Group will do everything we can to keep readers advised with the most accurate and timely information possible.

John Packard Summit 18This is one of the reasons we are beginning our weekly SMU Community Chat webinar. The webinar will be just 30-45 minutes in length so we do not take a lot of time out of your day. We are going to tape the webinar so those who have conflicts can view it when time permits. We will conduct the webinar on Wednesday mornings at 11 a.m. ET. We will provide a link and password for each webinar, which will be in our article in Tuesday evening’s issue, or we will email it directly to you. You can also request the link and password by email at info@SteelMarketUpdate.com. If you have not used Zoom before, when you click on the link we provide you will be prompted to download their software (free) so you can view the webinar.

The subject for this Wednesday’s SMU Community Chat webinar: CRU Steel Sheet Forecast 2020-2021 with a concentration on how mill cuts in production mesh with CRU’s view of future demand.

I have never been a proponent of daily spot prices for the flat rolled or plate markets. Today, due to the lack of actual transactions, any daily price would be predicated on just a handful of numbers.

We recognize there will be fewer data points as we work on our spot numbers on a weekly basis. We are addressing the number of data points as we work to improve our surveys, expand the number of one-on-one contacts and speak directly to more mills. At SMU our goal is to provide the range of numbers that exist in the spot markets. We then take the high and low of our range, add them together and divide by two to ascertain our average for the week.

It is critically important that those invited to participate in our surveys, email questions or direct phone calls provide as much accurate and timely information as possible. We keep the sources of all the information we collect confidential; we do not share where the data comes from and we never reference an individual or company name.

I listened in on the virtual lunch conducted by Timna Tanners, steel and mining analyst for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, on Friday of this past week. A couple of quick notes from the comments made by active participants in their respective markets: Scrap dealers are having difficulties collecting scrap; one executive told the group they had shut down peddler scales (where they buy scrap from off the street). Prime scrap suppliers are shut down and expected to be down for the remainder of this month (April). There is a lot of resistance to scrap prices going down by $50 per gross ton, which is where the mills are offering to buy right now.

On the same call, a couple of trading companies addressed the group and pegged foreign hot rolled at $345 to $380 per metric ton, FOB Export Port. The expectation is for foreign HRC to go down to $300 per metric ton. The belief by the traders is that domestic (U.S.) HRC prices could bottom around $400 per net ton. Right now, the foreign numbers are not attracting much interest from U.S. steel buyers.

One manufacturer told the group his company had just purchased domestic HRC at sub-$500 per net ton.

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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

I’ve had discussions with some of you lately about where and when sheet prices might bottom. Some of you say that hot-rolled (HR) coil prices won’t fall below $800 per short ton (st). Others tell me that bigger buyers aren’t interested unless they can get something that starts with a six. Obviously a lot depends on whether we're talking 50 tons or 50,000 tons. I've even gotten some guff about how the drop in US prices is happening only because we’re talking about it happening.

Final thoughts

We’ve all heard a lot about mill “discipline” following a wave of consolidation over the last few years. That discipline is often evident when prices are rising, less so when they are falling. I remember hearing earlier this year that mills weren’t going to let hot-rolled (HR) coil prices fall below $1,000 per short ton (st). Then not below $900/st. Now, some of you tell me that HR prices in the mid/high-$800s are the “1-800 price” – widely available to regular spot buyers. So what comes next, and will mills “hold the line” in the $800s?