SMU Market Chatter

Market chatter this week

Written by Becca Moczygemba

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, SMU polled steel buyers on a variety of subjects, including steel prices, demand, inventories, imports, and what people were talking about in the market.

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.

Are steel prices near a peak? If not, when and at what price level do you think prices will peak, and why?

“With lead times being extended, domestic prices have room to increase through the first quarter.”

“Not even close. It will not peak until April 2024 or later.”

“We’re closing in on the top. The only reason for higher prices now is for the sake of higher prices.”

“Asking prices have yet to peak (example: Nucor’s recent announcement). I see announcements peaking at $1,200, while transactions are at $1,000. I think we’ll see the current trend start reversing for Q2.

“Peak will be January around $1,050 and then start lowering.”

“Not yet, we expect them to trend higher.  I would think at the new levels they are close to a peak and the mills probably do not see pressure until lead times reach March.”

“I think we have a few more weeks of increases left in the indices, but then it’ll start to drift lower. However, we heard this morning that Nucor might push to $1,100/ton HRC base!”

“Discrete plate took another drop on CRU last Wednesday. That indicates to me that plate could drop yet another few dollars in December, but I wouldn’t expect by much more.”

“No, I don’t believe they will peak until Jan./Feb. The market is unstable right now.”

Is demand improving, declining or stable, and why?

“Improving – projects approved prior to interest rate hikes are moving forward.”

“Demand is steady. Buying activity has increased from imports due to rapidly increasing prices.”

“Weakening due to economic slowdown and high interest rates.”

“Demand is stable. Supply is driving the recent market moves.”

“Perhaps the near term is improving slightly as folks do some restocking, but I suspect the real story will unfold in Q1 into Q2 to be stable to soft stable.”

“Demand is improving as buyers are restocking and preparing for solid auto shipments in January, contract buying is robust as prices are trailing.”

“Demand seems pretty stable across most industries.”

“Demand for plate is holding steady with some seasonal related slowing. Expected to pick back up in Q1’24.”

“Stable, but we expect some seasonality between now and the beginning of next year.”

“Declining, companies pushing out their forecast.”

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

“Faster. Our fourth-quarter 2023 business is better than fourth-quarter 2022.”

“A little faster.”

“About the same.”

“Slower due to price uncertainty.”

“Slower as pricing levels have increased.”

“I’d say overall a bit slower as folks balance inventories for year end.”

“About the same as this is around the same time mills started to drive prices up last year.”

“I think most service centers would say “slower” just because of the seasonality, but these mill increases are certainly changing some of that.”

“Plate inventory is moving out at a decent pace considering the volatile market in Q4.”

Are imports more attractive vs. domestic material? Why or why not?

“Yes, light-gauge coated material loaded truck is lower than domestic base price.”

“They were for a minute but their prices have gone up.”

“Starting to look a bit more attractive.”

“Yes, pricing is still well below domestic mill pricing.”

“No, lead time is too long.”

“Yes, from a pure price perspective. Factoring in lead times makes it a bit risky, especially for plate.”

“Imports are more attractive from a pricing standpoint. But lead times are very extended and buyers are not willing to make long-term commitments as the problem is now.”

“Plate imports are not attractive and hardly being offered to us as there aren’t many players offering anything of interest.”

“Yes, based on price but lead-times are May arrival for plate.”

What’s something that’s going on in the market that nobody is talking about?

“Secondary pricing is on a steep increase.”

“U.S. Steel will have five bidders due on Friday.”

“Construction is slowing down.”

“Annual mill contract price negotiations.”

“Mill consolidation and the long-term effect on pricing.”

“High corporate interest rates are going to keep consuming service center margin in 2024 and 2025.”

“EU-US negotiations on Section 232 and TRQ – what is happening there?”

“U.S. Steel being sold. It seems like it will be coming very soon.”

“I would say Evraz’s M&A situation and then also the status of AHMSA. Both topics have gone pretty quiet here lately.”

“2024 election and the impact on steel.”

Becca Moczygemba

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