We had a good webinar with Lewis Leibowitz yesterday (Wednesday). Our next SMU Community Chat webinar will be held next Wednesday, June 10, and our featured guest speaker will be James Banker, Jr., Executive Vice President, NLMK USA. Banker will be the first steel mill to participate in one of our webinars. Jim has a great sense of humor, and I am sure this will be both enlightening and entertaining. To register for this free event, please click here or go to www.SteelMarketUpdate.com/Blog/SMU-Community-Chat-Eebinars You will also find recordings of past webinars as well as the presentations used.
I mentioned earlier this week that ferrous scrap prices were mixed and not as strong (high) as expected. A general manager of a service center put the possible impact of a weakening scrap market into perspective for us when he wrote: “Scrap for June is starting out a bit weaker than anticipated with ample tonnage of secondary grades available, but still tighter prime grades. So, there may not be as much cost pressure on the scrap side to help underpin the mills and their quest for higher prices. Things seem to be very stable at the moment with what appears to be a decent balance of supply/demand. I still think the odds are higher that we see prices moving higher in the near term, especially with domestic production flat and future imports expected to be similar.”
This week an automotive-focused service center told us that they do not see the domestic mills restarting blast furnaces until September. Other steel buyers also supported the view not to expect blast furnaces coming on any time soon.
We should see imports drop in fourth-quarter 2020 as Brazil will have sold out all but maybe 10 percent of their annual quota on many items prior to 4Q. Semi-finished steels are the largest item being imported and those tons will definitely be lower due to quota restrictions.
I have been spending a large portion of my time communicating with sponsors and exhibitors for this year’s conference – which will now be a virtual conference only. It is disappointing that we are not able to do a live conference, but we think we are going to provide a solid alternative that will feed your need to interact with multiple companies who buy and sell or participate in the flat rolled and plate steel markets. So far, all of our sponsors and exhibitors have stayed with us (exceptions were WiFi and charging stations, which are both not viable when doing a virtual conference). Thank you to all of our sponsors and exhibitors for your support.
As I was speaking to one of our exhibitors this morning, he told me that our conference is “all about community” and his company wants to be part of the SMU community. The community does not go away just because we are meeting on a virtual platform.
We are getting support from many companies, both those who had already registered as well as new companies who are registering for the SMU Virtual Steel Summit Conference. Some of the companies who are committed to attend include: Ternium, Nucor, Ryerson, Superior Steel Supply, SSAB, Quality Edge, Inc., Magic Coil Products, Mobius, Red Bud Industries, Felux, Beaver Steel Services, Inc., Berg Pipe, Bilstein Cold Rolled Steel, Cleveland Steel Container, Heating & Cooling Products, Imperial Manufacturing Group, Klauer Manufacturing Company, Leeco Steel LLC, Lozier Corporation, Midwest Pipe & Steel, Inc., Mitsui Steel Inc., Morrison Products, New Process Steel, North Shore Steel, Northview Advisors, Priefert Manufacturing, Steel & Pipe Supply, Steel Technologies…and many more.
You can join these companies and hundreds more by clicking here to register.
For those of you who are over 50 and do not quite get the whole virtual thing…. Go look at what your kids are doing on a daily basis. We already live in a virtual world. You will be able to network, meet new people, chat and have video chats, ask questions of speakers, exhibitors and of each other – all through the SMU Virtual Steel Summit Conference platform. What you will experience will be new, fun, entertaining and of value. Since the ticket to admission is so reasonable, you may want to include the boss, and maybe some of the support staff that normally do not get to attend conferences…. Just a thought. To learn more and to register click here.
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
Domestic prices have been sliding since the beginning of the year, and I don’t see any obvious reasons why the slide might stop this week. But let’s put the timing of a bottom aside for a minute. The question among some of you seems to be whether we’ll see another price spike, or at least a “dead-cat bounce,” before the typical summer doldrums kick in.
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.
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.