Steel Products Prices North America

Plate Mills Jockey for Position with Price Announcements

Written by Tim Triplett

Many steel buyers have been anticipating a price increase, and the plate mills were the first to make a move. ArcelorMittal USA, Nucor and SSAB all announced changes to their plate prices, but not in the typical lock-step fashion.

Nucor informed customers on Friday that it was setting a minimum base price of $28/cwt ($560 per ton), freight included. “To provide an increased level of clarity and transparency in our plate product pricing, the Nucor Plate Group has initiated a minimum base price that reflects both input costs and market dynamics. This published price will be updated as needed in response to changing market conditions,” the company stated.

Nucor’s minimum applies to discrete/CTL plate, grade A36, up to 2” thick, in widths of 72”, 84”, 96” or 120”, not counting published extras. “Thank you for the trust you have placed in the Nucor Plate Group given the challenges to our economy and our nation during 2020,” the company added.

On Monday, SSAB Americas increased transaction prices by a minimum of $50 per ton effective immediately for all new non-contract orders. This increase applies to As-Rolled Mill Plate, Cut-To-Length Plate >72”, Hot Rolled Coils >72”, as well as Normalized Plate and Quenched & Tempered Plate. All published extras and all regional freight premiums continue to apply.

ArcelorMittal USA increased prices on Monday by a minimum of $40 per ton on all non-contractual carbon, HSLA, alloy, heat-treated and specialty plate products. Published book extras continue to apply for all business, the company said.

Steel Market Update assessed the average price for plate products at $590 per ton last week, meaning Nucor’s $560 per ton minimum is not an increase comparable to its competitors’.

“I see it as a line in the sand statement from Nucor,” said one source. “This is our minimum bottom and we are headed up from here. Don’t ask for anything better.”

Rather than representing a price “increase,” this announcement from Nucor actually represents a “decrease” of $20 per ton, from $580 to $560, for one buyer. “Our view and understanding is this is an attempt by Nucor to establish a “Published Price” for plate, similar to the model they use for MBQ and beams. It’s also, an attempt to establish price leadership ahead of their new capacity additions. SSAB’s move, I think, was a counterpunch to send a message that they are the market leaders when it comes to price.”

SMU’s Price Momentum Indicator is currently at Neutral (and has been for some time) as we wait to see how the market reacts to these differing price announcements.

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