Steel Market Update is celebrating our 12th birthday. I started the SMU publication officially in August 2008. Prior to that I had been giving it away to my former customers and friends within the industry. I knew at the time that the industry needed a publication coming from an industry perspective as opposed to a journalism perspective. SMU succeeded because I knew what questions to ask buyers and sellers, and due to my experience selling steel I was able to sort out the self-serving data providers from those who were interested in a more transparent market.
I surrounded myself with people who did not (and do not) mind working hard, learning new things and who compliment my talents.
Twelve years later it still works. SMU continues to grow, we continue to come up with new products and ways of looking at business. Our brand is respected by the steel community and we appreciate our customers and do everything possible to provide the best information so those within the industry who have to make decisions are better able to do so.
I made a similar decision when I started the SMU Steel Summit Conference. We started small, riding on the coattails of Metalcon. Our first conference was in Las Vegas. We charged $100 per head, and had slightly more than 100 executuves, The formula worked, and we continued to grow from there.
I made the decision to put down roots for the conference about six years ago. I selected the Georgia International Convention Center because it made sense for active industry executives who were tired of being used and abused by high hotel rates, multiple airports, expensive cab rides and inferior programs. The GICC, located next to the Atlanta airport, was the perfect location. If not for the pandemic, this year’s event, which is our 10th, would be at the GICC instead of being virtual.
But this is the year of the pandemic, and we roll with the punches. You will now be able to interact and appreciate our program from the comfort of your office or home office (or even sitting outside by the pool).
I have spoken to almost every speaker, we are working with the events team in London, our platform has been built, the exhibition booths are being stocked and we are getting very close to being able to launch this year’s event. The program is going to be exceptional. We are going to cover a wide variety of subjects. There will be many forecasts (economic, political and steel related).
We have moved through 600 registered attendees on our way to (we hope) 800+ executives.
Nominations for the SMU NexGen Leadership Award are due tomorrow, August 5th You can nominate someone (including yourself) and learn more about the nomination process by clicking here. All qualified nominees will receive a free pass to this year’s conference.
You can learn more about our platform and how networking and interacting with our agenda will work by viewing last week’s SMU Community Chat webinar. You can view the recording by clicking here or going to www.SteelMarketUpdate.com/blog/smu-community-chat-webinars and click on last week’s recording.
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
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.