The official opening of the SMU Virtual Steel Summit Conference is 29 days from today (Aug. 24-26). You will want to register early as we will be opening the platform during the prior week (probably Thursday and Friday) so people can get help as they practice using the platform, make appointments with other attendees and schedule the events you will attend live versus on-demand. All of these items will be automatically added to your work calendars.
Change is all around us.
I was talking to the CEO of a large service center late last week, and the discussion turned to how the remaining baby boomers may be holding back the industry from total acceptance of new technology and new ways of conducting business. I am sure there is a thread of truth to that. We baby boomers are struggling during this pandemic with not being able to get face to face with our customers/suppliers, and we are all zoomed out.
I was asked what I liked better – the live conference experience or the virtual experience we have been building over the past 5-6 months?
As a baby boomer, the answer is not easy. I am going to miss not being able to physically shake the hands and chat face to face with old and new friends alike. This is the 10th anniversary for the SMU Steel Summit Conference, and I will miss the sea of faces across the room, the din in the dining area and exhibition area, the throngs of people at the bars at the hotels. However, the virtual platform we have been working on will probably be an even better experience as the chance attendees will miss touching base with someone is dramatically diminished on a virtual platform.
The throngs of people will still be there. As of late last week, we had pushed through 500 registrations and are well on our way to 600. Since executives are just now looking at their calendars for late August, we expect the numbers to rise in the coming days and weeks. I am still hopeful of attracting more than 800 executives to this year’s event.
This will be the first time in 10 years where I will be able to view the complete program. In a virtual platform, the live events are recorded and then become available “on-demand.” Now you can network, hold your meetings, and still see every speaker, visit every exhibition booth, check out every attendee.
A virtual platform allows us the opportunity to provide extra content. This is done with an “on-demand” function. So, for example, we will have a short Steel 101 training video available for attendees. This video will not be part of the regular program, but it will be available on demand. There will be other videos from SMU, CRU and potentially others, which will also be available on an on-demand basis within our platform.
Because people do not have to travel, we are able to offer each qualified NexGen Leadership nominee a free ticket to this year’s conference. This is a double bonus for your company: 1) you get to recognize one (or more) of your key young talented employees, and 2) they get exposed to our exceptional program and networking with others within the industry. To learn about nominating someone, please go to: www.smusteelsummit.com and click on the 2020 Award tab at the top of the page.
We will demonstrate many of the new ways one can produce and function within a virtual platform for those attending this Wednesday’s SMU Community Chat webinar at 11 a.m. ET. To register, click on this link or go to www.SteelMarketUpdate.com/blog/smu-community-chat-webinars
According to many of the steel buyers (and at least one integrated steel mill), one of the key factors for steel prices either rising or falling will be ferrous scrap pricing come August. We heard from one of the integrated mills on Friday who pointed out that new orders for ferrous scrap suggest prices are ticking higher as we head into August. SMU asked CRU scrap specialist Ryan McKinley what he was seeing in the scrap markets for August and he reported:
“We have seen scrap prices in the export market rising a bit and this often lends support to the domestic market. While this may help support obsolete grade prices in August, demand for scrap is still only a little stronger than it has been in the last 30-60 days relatively speaking (depending on region). The small increase in the export market may very well wind up keeping obsolete grade prices unchanged as opposed to ticking lower. Prime grades, on the other hand, are almost certainly going to move lower m/m amid continued generation from manufacturers and their relatively high price spread to obsolete grades.
“The primary questions for whether or not obsolete grade prices fall next month is how much of that material is pushed to the East Coast for export and how much inbound flows have been affected by a decrease in scale prices. Yes, demand has not weakened m/m overall for scrap, but there is a chance that supply outpaces this and prices come off a bit in August.”
The SMU Price Momentum Indicators on flat rolled are Neutral as we wait for the market to determine if spot prices will rise from here. Right now, there seems to be two distinct camps, with integrated mills on one side of the ledger and EAF mills on the other.
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John Packard, President & CEO
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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.
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.