Steel Products

Steel Visionary Peter Marcus Has Died; Memories, Legacy Live On

Written by Michael Cowden

Steel industry legend Peter Marcus died unexpectedly overnight following a brief illness.

As word of his death spread across the steel industry, people reached out to SMU not only with memories of the man but also of the forecasts that made him famous (some would say infamous).

Peter Marcus“Peter Marcus was the ultimate scholar of the steel industry, not only in the United States but also on a world scale,” Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves said.

“During his six decades in business, several generations of executives have learned from him, myself included,” Goncalves said. “The steel industry will miss Peter Marcus. And I will miss Peter as a dear friend.”

Marcus was the founder of World Steel Dynamics (WSD), a steel consultancy and analytics firm based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. He was also the driving personality behind the Steel Success Strategies (SSS) conference, whose attendees remembered him for his “pricing volcanoes,” “death spirals” and his uncanny ability to predict big market moves.

Case in point: Marcus in June 2008 at Steel Success in New York said there was an 85% chance that steel prices would plummet by as much as 40% in the second half of 2008.

“Most of our contacts, by the way, don’t expect a price decline this steep,” he said at the time.

Marcus was confident of his forecast. He reasoned that steel prices would fall on high prices making it difficult for buyers to secure financing, on less demand for consumer durables in developed countries, and on long products buyers delaying purchases when scrap prices started to fall.

Did he get it right? SMU’s hot-rolled coil price was at $1,050 per ton in June 2008. It rose to $1,070 per ton in July, what turned out to be a peak for that year. And then it collapsed by more than 50% to $530 per ton by the end of the year.

The reckless forecast Marcus made in June turned out to be a smidge too cautious. No one else was even close to the mark.

CRU Principal Steel Analyst Josh Spoores remembers the 2008 SSS conference and Marcus’s call well. Spoores was working for Cleveland-based service center Majestic Steel USA at the time. He bumped into Marcus while checking into the Sheraton New York Times Square, the long-time home of SSS.

Spoores introduced himself and asked Marcus how fast prices would rise. “With a stone-cold face, he responded ‘This is a bubble, and it’s about to crash.’ He nailed that turning point!”

The ability to spot and analyze trends ahead of the curve is what set Marcus apart. So did his ability to present those forecasts engagingly “and with no shortage of colorful adjectives.”

“He was a legend and will be missed,” Spoores said.

SMU Founder, President and Publisher John Packard remembered Marcus not only for his astute forecasts but also as an entrepreneur.

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Marcus. Peter was an icon within the industry for decades,” Packard said. “In his own way he challenged me to make SMU what it is today. His insights and wit will be missed.”

Marcus founded WSD in early 1999 after a long career on Wall Street as a steel securities analyst and a consultant to the steel industry. He began his career in 1961 with L.F. Rothschild & Co. He later worked for 28 years with Paine Webber.

WSD, his legacy, continues on under the able leadership of CEO Philipp Englin and Managing Director Adam Green.

By Michael Cowden,

Michael Cowden

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