Welcome from SMU Virtual Steel Summit Conference control central in Hobe Sound, Fla. It’s sunny, temperatures are in the mid-90’s and my home looks nothing like a typical Florida residence as a team of production and audio/visual experts assist in the creation this year’s virtual event.
Putting on a conference as large as ours has become is always a challenge. We set huge goals for ourselves as we strive to put on a program that no one will soon forget, with interesting speakers providing quality information. Through the first two days, I believe we have met our attendees’ high expectations.
To host a virtual conference, we had to learn quickly, on the fly if you will. How to conduct the program, the questions and answer period, how much time we allow each speaker and each subject. There have been a few glitches, we did not plan on Zoom going down worldwide on Monday, but few noticed as the London events team worked tirelessly to provide a seamless experience to those watching the presentations.
SMU conferences try to think outside of the box. This year we did it both literally and figuratively. We sent welcome boxes to nearly 500 of those who registered early. The welcome box was a nice “touch” from our sponsors: Red Bud Industries, Kenwal, Mill Steel, Reibus, Heidtman, Big River Steel and Crowe.
We also conducted the first “speed networking” event sponsored by Heidtman Steel. This was the highlight of Day One for those who participated. We were gathered into a single room and then randomly shot into various meeting rooms with others we may or may not have previously known. We were able to do this five times during the course of an hour, and I can tell you I managed to meet a number of people I would not have met otherwise. For those of you who are attending the conference but skipped the speed networking…well, you missed an opportunity to expand your network of industry friends.
Second Largest Steel Conference in SMU Steel Summit History
One of our biggest goals is to make our conference the largest steel gathering held during the calendar year. Just because we went virtual doesn’t mean we did not have high expectations to reach at least 500 attendees. Once we met that goal, it expanded to 600, 700 and then 800. As I write this note, we have exceeded 900 registered attendees (913). To put this into perspective, we went over 1,000 attendees for the first time in 2019 at our live conference. Officially, this conference is now the second largest conference in our 10-year history.
Also, a quick comment. I noted on my computer the interview with Nucor CEO Leon Topalian was cut off at the end. This was due to the switching lag necessary because people have different internet speeds around the world. If you watch the interview “on demand,” it will show the full production (including any cut-off pieces).
Some housekeeping notes to keep everyone abreast of what we are doing over the next few weeks. Due to the conference, we will not host an SMU Community Chat Webinar this week. I intend to take some time off beginning at the end of this week, so we have decided to idle the Community Chats for a few weeks until my return. We will continue hosting Community Chats in the future as I think they are being well received in the market and many people who don’t get to see us on a regular basis are able to tune in and hear how we (and our speakers) are viewing the market.
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 want to give a big shoutout to the good folks at the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association (FMA) for inviting me to their annual conference this week in Clearwater, Fla. I also want to give a special thanks to the FMA for awarding SMU founder John Packard with a lifetime achievement award – on that also gave me a chance to catch up with my old boss in person.
What are some “Black Swans” to watch out for? With the war in Ukraine entering its third year, your mind might understandably move to conflicts overseas. Here is one closer to home to consider: US trade relations with Mexico taking a turn for the worse. I mention that because the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) dropped a (virtual) bombshell earlier this month.
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?