Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by Tim Triplett

(Editor’s note: This is a corrected version of Final Thoughts. The original misstated a hot rolled peak of $1,995 per ton, not $1,955.)

In our questionnaire this week, we asked steel buyers: Do you sense that the market is changing, and in what ways? Not surprisingly, many referenced shortening mill lead times and declining steel prices. At an average of $1,770 per ton, hot rolled has dropped by about $185 or 10% from its early-September peak of $1,955. In a normal market, a $185 decline would be considered a disaster. In the current environment, some describe it as a “slow softening” or even “a trickle.”

Below are some of their other observations on the changing market conditions:

“My sense is the market is changing, but slowly at this point.”

“Yes, there have been some changes – Section 232’s termination, supply-chain constraints and increasing HRC stock levels.”

“There’s more availability on generic hot rolled.”

“Lead times are definitely shorter.”

“The market has clearly changed in that there is (1) no more panic buying, (2) there are more buyers sitting on the sidelines and (3) a consensus that pricing will continue to soften for the duration of Q4.”

“Demand is okay, but with the price reductions, people freeze.”

“There are holes in the order book caused by the fourth-quarter slowdown.”

“Supply is up, demand is down, and the market is dropping.”

“Pricing adjustments will decline more rapidly by February.”

“Service centers that need receivables/cash are looking to move product and are very aggressive. The market might be stronger in January, but they can’t wait – they need to pay the mills.”

“We have obviously peaked, but the slow trickle down seems to lend credit to mill consolidation playing a bigger role than ever.”

“It’s very quiet, and no one knows what the next 60-90 days will look like.”

Scrap Prices Rolling Over for December?

Ferrous scrap prices saw a big jump in November and some grades were expected to rise a little further in December, but that’s not the way negotiations are shaping up. In a bit of a surprise, the mills in Detroit announced today they are rolling over prices for all scrap grades from November.

“Prices are definitely trending sideways, which is lower than most expectations,” one SMU source said.

The main reason: Demand for U.S. scrap overseas, notably in Turkey, is weakening, because the Turkish economy is in crisis and the value of the lira is down sharply. So U.S. exporters are seeking more buyers for shredded scrap domestically.

Scrap for December won’t settle in all regions for another couple days, but if they follow Detroit’s lead, flat to declining prices for prime and obsolete grades can only add to the downward pressure on finished steel prices.

Added another scrap exec: “It remains to be seen if the December market trades sideways nationwide, but scrap will be strong in January.”

Upcoming SMU Events

There’s still time to register for SMU’s popular Steel 101: Introduction to Steel Making & Market Fundamentals Workshop, which will be held virtually on Jan 11 and 12. Info on the agenda, instructors and costs is available by clicking here

SMU’s Introduction to Steel Hedging Workshop is also a virtual event on Feb. 1 and 2 covering techniques to protect your company and customers from steel price volatility. More information is available by clicking here

The 33rd Tampa Steel Conference, an in-person event, will be held at the Marriott Water Street Hotel in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 14-16. You can learn more about the agenda, speakers, costs to attend, and how to register by clicking here

As always, we appreciate your business.

Tim Triplett, SMU Executive Editor,

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