Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard

We had an exceptional SMU Community Chat on Wednesday with James Banker, Jr., of NLMK USA. Banker was candid, forthcoming (except when asked about steel pricing) and provided solid information for those who were on the webinar. The recording is available as are the PowerPoint slides used during the webinar. You can find both by clicking here.

Our next SMU Community Chat webinar will feature Donald Bly of Applied Value. We had an interesting conversation today full of insights into buying negotiations, the appetite for steel and how hungry suppliers are, as well as details regarding supply chain and OEM’s limited risk in the future. You can register for next week’s webinar by clicking here.

John Packard Summit 18I received a question by email yesterday morning asking about idled blast furnaces and how long they can remain idle? During our Community Chat webinar, Jim Banker did a great job of explaining what hot idle means, how expensive it is, and how quickly a furnace can come back on. I also asked Chuck McDaniels, one of our Steel 101 workshop instructors, the same question. The quick answer is if the furnace is prepared properly the amount of time needed to return it to full production is relatively short. The amount of time it can remain in hot idle is based on the wear and tear of the refractory bricks. If taken down properly, with good bricks, it can remain in hot idle for an extended period.

We are learning that U.S. Steel Mon Valley is bringing up their #1 furnace and will take down their #3 furnace (although both are running right now). We are also learning of AK Steel bringing back their Dearborn blast furnace and BOF by mid-July. My understanding is the Dearborn facility will feed slabs to Middletown. We reached out to AK Steel, but have not received any confirmation as of this writing.

U.S. Steel did respond with the following: “As we continue to navigate business conditions during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we are adjusting to changing market conditions by utilizing the flexibility afforded by our banked blast furnaces. We may intermittently bring blast furnaces up or down to accommodate changes in our order book. Edgar Thomson #1 blast furnace was restarted to provide for volume requirements, but we continue to evaluate and adjust based on customer demand.”

I am having numerous conversations with our sponsors and exhibitors regarding the 2020 SMU Virtual Steel Summit Conference. After being involved in about a dozen of these Zoom meet events, I can see people/companies are starting to get excited with what we are trying to present to the industry.

The proof will be in the numbers, and I want everyone to know that we are receiving new registrations, many upgraded registrations (meaning more individuals coming from companies already registered) and a few cancellations. My gut tells me those who cancel will come back when they realize this will be the networking and content event of the year. For that matter, we are planning on putting more content in this event than we ever could during a live conference. We will provide “on-demand” pieces to complement our live program.

“We will have a story to tell” is my first hint as to what our program will look like….

You can register for the 2020 SMU Virtual Steel Summit Conference 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

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?