The United States is beginning to go back to work. Automotive plants are scheduled to begin opening this week. The U.S. is working with Mexico to ensure automotive suppliers in Mexico are deemed “essential businesses” and return to work.
From my perch here in Florida, traffic has returned to normal, restaurants are open (50 percent of capacity) in all but a couple of counties, beaches are opening as are many stores. Exactly how big an impact there has been to the economy is unknown, but very much in debate.
That debate will continue Wednesday at 11 AM as our SMU Community Chat guest speaker will be John Anton steel, purchasing and pricing expert for IHS Markit. You can register for this free webinar by clicking here.
Being the parent of a professional musician and another in the food service business, their jobs are not returning anytime soon. I can only keep my fingers crossed that people remain smart, social distance, invest in a fun mask (and wear it when in public) and that someone in the world finds a vaccine that will work (and be safe).
Click here if you want to learn more about what each state is doing regarding remaining in lockdown or reopening.
In our latest flat rolled and plate steel market trends survey, we are seeing early signs of life, early signs of a growing optimism. Our SMU Steel Buyers Sentiment Index left the pessimistic portion of our index and is now +15 (based on a single week’s data point) for Current Sentiment. Future Sentiment never dropped below +10 (barely in the optimistic range) and has now rebounded to +30. Both are good signs that buyers and sellers of steel feel conditions are improving.
Demand is the area of concern for everyone. The data collected during our survey suggests there are hurdles to overcome ahead of us. We did see general demand improve…well, maybe a better way to say it is fewer respondents reported declining demand this past week than in the prior six weeks (see graphic below).
The vast majority of those responding to our survey last week (74 percent) believe the domestic mills will announce another price increase on flat rolled before the end of May.
One reason for another increase by the domestic mills can be seen in the responses we received regarding the amount of the first increase that is being collected now. Only 5 percent of those responding to our query reported mills as collecting the full increase. Slightly more than half of the respondents reported a portion of the increase was being collected.
Our Premium members can get the full details on these and many other questions asked last week by going to our website. On the Home Page (you must be logged in to your Premium account) click on the Analysis tab and pick “Latest Survey Results” from the drop-down screen. Executive members can view a sample survey, but are not able to see the latest and the full history of surveys that are on the site. If you would like information about how to become a Premium member, please contact Paige@SteelMarketUpdate.com
Paige Mayhair is also your contact if you would like to renew your membership, add new members (many companies are not utilizing all of the licenses they have available to them), upgrade your account or to add a new account. She can be reached at 724-720-1012.
I am in my office all week. You can reach me at John@SteelMarketUpdate.com.
As always, your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.
John Packard, President & CEO
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Latest in 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?
Everyone knows the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. A lot of inked has been spilled trying to figure out why prices are falling now. I thought it might be as simple as this: Market dynamics in the fourth quarter (UAW strike, companies buying ahead of an anticipated post-strike price spike, etc.) pulled forward restocking activity that typically happens in the first quarter.
What a difference a month makes. There are a few full bulls left in the room, but their numbers are dwindling. We’ll release results of our full steel market survey tomorrow afternoon. I took a sneak peak at the data on Thursday. And more people than I expected think that US hot-rolled (HR) coil prices will be in the $700s per short ton (st) two months from now. Vanishingly few think prices will be above $1,000/st in mid-April.
Sheet prices have fallen again this week on shorter lead times, higher imports, and potentially higher inventories. (We’ll see for sure when we release our service center shipment and inventory data next week.) I remember reporting almost exactly the same thing about a month ago and getting a fair amount of pushback. Not so much these days.
What’s something going on in the market that no one is talking about? That’s a question on our survey, and was also posed to many who graced the stage at our Tampa Steel Conference. Perhaps another way to phrase that is “not talking about publicly” or connecting the dots of steel market chatter to find a uniting central issue. I thought one respondent to our survey really summed up the current moment: “Right now it is all politics.”