Steel Market Chatter This Week

Written by Becca Moczygemba

SMU polled steel buyers on a variety of subjects on Monday and Tuesday of this week, including current and future steel prices, inventory strategies, supply, demand, and new mill capacity. Rather than summarizing the comments we received, we are sharing some of them in each buyer’s own words.

We want to hear your thoughts, too! Contact to be included in our questionnaires.

Will new HRC base prices of at least $1,150/ton announced by certain domestic mills hold? Why or why not? 

“Yes, because downstream can pay $2,000/ton and still make lots of money.”

“Probably, but not for long. Even with shutdowns looming, I don’t see enough demand to sustain these prices.”

“Mills appear to be aligned and demand appears to be steady. No indications that pricing will slip at this time.”

“Will hold through Q2. Just booked May at the highest price point this year. Mill only offered 48-hour validity.”

“It may peak there, but there is not enough demand to sustain for long. The curve will resemble the peak and immediate drop like happened last year when Russia invaded Ukraine.”

“Near term there will be some stickiness to the high spot price. Mills will get their number with whomever they can, especially those that need the spot market.”

“Just do not see that buyers have a choice. With upcoming mill maintenance outages and less steel coming in from Canada and Mexico, things are tighter than they should be.”

“I still think demand is lacking.”

“Yes, because offshore volume is low due to low US pricing at end of 2022. Demand is being met by domestic mills along nd scrap pricing is increasing. Demand is good but not great, so mills are just wanting additional margin to make up for last year’s decline.”


Are you buying more material on spot terms than on contract terms this year? Could you provide any detail on the mix?

“Contracts failed last year due to customers bailing on them, so we went to spot only.”

“Went less on contract this year, still seems like it was the best decision. At these prices, we can hold back some tons until pricing comes down or imports pick up.”

“Going with spot tons for now, afraid to lock into long-term contracts at these prices.”

“One-third contract, two-thirds spot.”

“Almost no spot buys this year.”

“Yes, we cut our contracts in half.”

“We set up our contracts to cover more than 50% of our buy.”

“No, we are heavier on contract this year.”

“No, but our business is consistently an 80% mix of contract. Also, spot is not flying off the shelf with the constant announcement of price increases. However, we are probably not quoting more than we are quoting because of availability.”

“Yes, due to mills not producing to our demand on the lighter gauges.”


When and at what price level do you think steel prices will peak, and why?

“$1,500 – just a guess”

“$1,200 seems likely at this point. Once the market pulls back (most likely soon), the bloom will be off the rose for this level of prices.”

“$1,300/ton – top out in late April. Offshore steel will begin to roll in and put downward pressure on pricing.”

“Peak in April then stabilize before settling back at lower levels as new capacity ramps up and the short squeeze abates”

“If there are enough people ‘caught’ without an option, seems likely this could go to $1,300.”

“Many moving parts and factors here. My guess is $1,400/ton and in June. Maybe at this time we will see a better window into third-quarter demand.”

“$1,150. I feel that the mills are greedy and that increases will continue to squeeze as much out until imported steel starts getting purchased.”

“$1,300 per ton until offshore producers can offset the demand over the next few months.”


Is demand improving, declining or stable, and why?

“Stable to improving (until current prices start being reflected in the end market).”

“Demand is stable, some are hesitant to buy. Others are locking in tonnage thinking there may be more increases to come.”

“Demand is improving in certain markets and stable to slow in others. Was climbing slowly until last week but seems to have leveled off due to high prices.”

“Stable with some customers improving, some not. There is a strong increase in our spot sales.”

“Improving, seems like panic has certainly hit the market.”

“Demand is stable, but automotive is up year-over-year.  With contract prices trailing, buyers are probably making it look better than it should.”

“Demand seems to be increasing as far as buys from my customers. Higher future costs and restocking are driving it.”

“Improving because service centers have forward bought to offset increases and automotive is strong.”


Is inventory moving faster or slower than this time last year – and why?

“Slower, less inventory.”

“Faster, less hangover material from the last run up in prices.”

“Moving faster as folks restock and buy to beat further increases. Appears to be on pace with this time last year.”

“We are starting to hit the point from last year where Russia invaded Ukraine and prices rose quickly, so last year was a strange time.”

“Faster, new business.”


With domestic prices rising, are you finding imports more attractive? Why or why not?

“No, imports are unreliable at best. Tariffs should remain intact so the whole world can make money off of steel. They also prevent the one largest-capacity country, in which their government owns the mills, from ruining the game for the rest of the world. Their government owns the mills, owns the banks that lends the money to the mills, and owns all surrounding business. Therefore, it has control over the required profit margins, which means less to them than keeping people going to work every day so they don’t revolt.”

“No, delivery is too late.”

“Not yet. Last spot check had imports at about the same level as domestic.”

“Import pricing just moved up in conjunction with domestic. Remains an option, but not necessarily the best option.”

“We are. The brokers and foreign mills are getting hungry, and they’re seeing the door open back up a bit. Watch out summertime!”

“Imports are beginning to be more attractive. Note this is by product as HRC is not quite there yet, while plate and other flat roll products are.”

“Yes, imports are now lower than domestic prices.”

“Imports are attractive. Mills know it and are now negotiable.”

PSA: If you have not looked at our latest SMU Market Survey results, they are available here on our website to all Premium members. We often refer to this as our ‘Steel Market Trends Report,’ and we publish updates every other Friday. We encourage readers to explore the full results, as we simply cannot write about all of the information within. After logging in at, visit the Analysis tab and look under the “Survey Results” section for “Latest Survey Results.” Historical survey results are also available in the Survey Results section under “Survey Results History.” We will conduct our next market survey next week, contact us if you would like to have your company represented.

By Becca Moczygemba, 

Becca Moczygemba

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