SMU Data and Models

SMU Market Trends: Tough April Ahead; Rebound by Q4?

Written by Tim Triplett

Executives from service centers and manufacturing companies report widespread order cancellations as customers scale back or shut down to stem the spread of COVID-19. Companies anticipate their sales will be off anywhere from 25-80 percent in April, compared with the same month last year.

When will business start to return to normal? The most hopeful among the respondents is anticipating a June turnaround, the least hopeful (most realistic perhaps) not until sometime next year. Most are rooting for a rebound by the late third or fourth quarter.

Following are comments from SMU’s canvass of the market on Monday and Tuesday:

“Demand is being hurt by rolling customer shutdowns due to either supply chain disruption or Covid-19 precautions. Our March was solid, but April will be down about 25 percent month over month. We are cancelling and pushing out orders. We see the number of customer plant closures increase daily. When will business return? No one can answer that question. I don’t have much faith in the federal government leading this effort. I think the lack of leadership is the most frightening part. We are hearing more and more about cases of asymptomatic transmission. As long as people can transmit the virus while not showing symptoms, it’s a huge concern.”

“April will be down at least 60-70 percent from 2019. We’re not cancelling or pushing out orders; we honor our commitments. We are open and fully operational, though workers are calling off ill or afraid. Only two customers have closed down, but we are expecting more to close for a week at a time as we move forward. By September/October we should be back to pre-February levels.”

“Short and sweet, business conditions are very challenging. Managing through the puts and takes has become quite a high-wire balancing act.”

“I believe we will be off around 30 percent in April. Some customer plants are closed and others are running at reduced schedules. We are looking at Q4 for a return to pre-February 2020 levels.”

“Sales are off 35 percent from March of 2019. My business ran the entire month with 22 percent of my workforce off under 14 days of self-quarantine. I’ve only canceled or pushed out tons because of the downward revisions from my OEM contracts. Three customers have closed plants. We hope to be back to business by August or September.”

“Demand has fallen. We are going to be down at least 25 percent in April, May and June. We have cancelled 25 percent of our orders for the next few months. Some customers are shut down due to the stay-at-home orders. Business may come back in August-September.”

“We are only placing spot orders to fill holes. We now have over 4.5 months of inventory on hand and climbing due to the slowdown. We are down over 70 percent in business overall and expect to go to 80 percent in April. We anticipate this lasting until June. Hopefully we are back to stronger sales sooner. Fifty percent of our end customer plants are closed. Some are starting to come back at roughly 20 percent of capacity. We estimate it will be July/August to get back to pre-February levels.”

“We were down 10 percent in March compared to our plan. Our best guess is that we will be down 30-40 percent in April, May, June. We are not ready to guess at Q3 yet. We are canceling and pushing out orders every day. Major tons. We will most likely be calling our contractual suppliers to let them know we won’t be able to meet our minimum monthly tonnage requirement in April/May. Several OEMs we supply directly or indirectly are taking shutdowns. Some have scheduled shutdowns into July. We hope to get back to normal levels early next year.”

“March was good; April will be down 40-50 percent. About 92 customer plants are closed. We have reduced hours and have gone to a four-day work week. We hope June returns to normal.”

“March was strong; April is going to be 50 percent off March. We have canceled several orders related to the oil field. Roughly 35 percent of our customers are not producing. We’re of the mind that Q2 of 2021 we see a return to Q1 2020 levels. Until a vaccine is available to the masses, we’ll be in for a bumpy ride.”

“April likely down 30 percent or more. We estimate 25-30 percent of customers are closed. No opinion on when we’ll return to normal; too many variables and unprecedented factors at play.”

“Nobody knows where this goes. Down 15 percent in March and expect April down 35 percent. We’re not canceling orders. Our big boy pants are on. Future orders will be ‘essentials only.’ The majority of customers are still open but not at full capacity. It will be September before we are back to pre-February levels.”

“April will be flat year over year. May/June down 25 percent. Pushing out orders on 15 percent of material. Most customer plants still operating. It will take 9-12 months for business to return to prior levels.”

“April will be down by 65 percent. Most automotive facilities are closed. I have all the mill PO’s that were not in process on hold. Business will jump back to 80-85 percent of past numbers in Q3, hopefully, but to get all the way back it will take a couple of years.”

“Unfortunately, can’t comment. I’m out with the virus. Hope to return in 3-4 weeks.” 

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