‘Twas two weeks before Christmas, and at our publication
We kept logging steel price increases from across our fair nation.
Up hot rolled, up cold rolled, and galvanized coil.
On Galvalume and plate — gushing skyward — like a geyser of oil.
Blink for a moment and you might miss a hike,
Oh what a change from the United Auto Workers strike.
Discuss prices at your holiday party but do practice moderation
As you sip on spiked eggnog and discuss decarbonization.
Will the EU and US agree, or will we see some global sheriff
Ride into Washington and pronounce a world carbon tariff?
Maybe start a little smaller, a more realizable goal,
Hang up our stockings and receive metallurgical coal.
Though it’s true some say Old Saint Nick is not real,
The same can’t be said for the much vaunted “green steel.”
Lower and lower the carbon goes, the greener it gets,
Are we reaching net zero soon, is anyone taking bets?
Carbon capture, hydrogen, the only limit’s the sky
As long as we don’t end up getting taken over by AI.
Here at SMU, we wish you all a joyful holiday season.
Join us soon in Tampa, in Florida, the weather sure is pleasin’.
There’ll be much to learn and discuss, old and new friends aplenty,
It will be 2024, a real blank slate, let’s finally forget 2020.
So two weeks before Christmas, and if you’ve also got that holiday feel
Don’t hesitate to drop us a tip: Who’s going to buy U.S. Steel?
Are you shivering through the season? Beat the winter blues and get a jump on all things steel at our 35th Annual Tampa Steel Conference. Rooms are filling up fast. Register here.
Ethan BernardRead more from Ethan Bernard
Latest in Final Thoughts
I’ve had discussions with some of you lately about where and when sheet prices might bottom. Some of you say that hot-rolled (HR) coil prices won’t fall below $800 per short ton (st). Others tell me that bigger buyers aren’t interested unless they can get something that starts with a six. Obviously a lot depends on whether we're talking 50 tons or 50,000 tons. I've even gotten some guff about how the drop in US prices is happening only because we’re talking about it happening.
We’ve all heard a lot about mill “discipline” following a wave of consolidation over the last few years. That discipline is often evident when prices are rising, less so when they are falling. I remember hearing earlier this year that mills weren’t going to let hot-rolled (HR) coil prices fall below $1,000 per short ton (st). Then not below $900/st. Now, some of you tell me that HR prices in the mid/high-$800s are the “1-800 price” – widely available to regular spot buyers. So what comes next, and will mills “hold the line” in the $800s?
Everyone knows the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. A lot of inked has been spilled trying to figure out why prices are falling now. I thought it might be as simple as this: Market dynamics in the fourth quarter (UAW strike, companies buying ahead of an anticipated post-strike price spike, etc.) pulled forward restocking activity that typically happens in the first quarter.
What a difference a month makes. There are a few full bulls left in the room, but their numbers are dwindling. We’ll release results of our full steel market survey tomorrow afternoon. I took a sneak peak at the data on Thursday. And more people than I expected think that US hot-rolled (HR) coil prices will be in the $700s per short ton (st) two months from now. Vanishingly few think prices will be above $1,000/st in mid-April.
Sheet prices have fallen again this week on shorter lead times, higher imports, and potentially higher inventories. (We’ll see for sure when we release our service center shipment and inventory data next week.) I remember reporting almost exactly the same thing about a month ago and getting a fair amount of pushback. Not so much these days.