SMU Market Chatter

Steel market chatter this week

Written by Becca Moczygemba

SMU polled steel buyers on a variety of subjects this past week, including inventory, demand, steel sheet prices, imports, and what people are talking about in today’s marketplace.

Rather than summarizing the comments we received, we are sharing some of them in each buyer’s own words.

We’d like 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?

“I feel they are near a peak or possibly already peaked. In visiting with mills on galvanized coils, they have capacity to fill in February and even stock on hand.”

“Most likely at the peak, but it could still peak in the next few weeks or month. I don’t think they can hold these prices beyond first quarter.”

“Yes, I believe steel prices are at a peak. I figured the last increase sends the message, and news of scrap coming off, along with futures crashing, kind of validates that.”

“I feel prices will continue to increase through the end of February. They might try to push $1,300.”  

“I believe they are at peak right now as supply and demand ratios are higher with supply increasing and demand weaker.”

“I can see a discrete plate increase coming in Q1.”

Is demand improving, declining or stable, and why?

“Demand is remaining ‘stable,’ which is fun to say. We’re bullish for 2024.”

“For us, demand is declining which is normal for this time of year.” 

“Demand is stable, an improvement from Q4. It’s mainly driven by automotive and buyers replenishing stock on trailing contract prices.”

“It’s stable at best. We’re expecting a strong January.”   

“Our demand is weakening due to high interest rates.”

“Discrete plate demand is decent to good.”

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

“Slower, as our orders have stabilized. Domestic supply is becoming more in line with lead times.”

“Inventory is moving faster, but that is probably with regards to us getting more and more new customers (not necessary our legacy business spiking).”

“Our inventory is moving faster as people restock and do a little ‘panic buying,’ brought on by the mill increases.”

“I think it is a bit slower than last year. However, this year is demand driven while last year was raw material price driven.”

“Slower, due to high interest rates slowing the economy.”

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

“Yes, 25% lower pricing than domestic.”

“With domestic set to fall in the coming weeks, not too attractive.”

“Imports are definitely attractive and have been for a while now. I worry about a wave coming in late Q1/early Q2.”

“They are from a pricing standpoint, but lead times are very extended.”

“Import discrete plate offers are not attractive for us at this moment for many justifications.”

“Depending on product and availability.”

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

“The purchasing index. It has been under 50 for 6+ months, and in November it was the lowest it has been in years. This index is normally six months out in front of moves in the market.”

“The lack of prime scrap.”

“There seems to be a decent amount of ‘dry powder’ on the sidelines. I think we could see plenty of M&A action in 2024 if the rate environment even improves just a little.”

“Offshore wind projects being canceled.”

“The impact of all the new capacity that has come online in the past two years.”

“In the last week I have seen mills get competitive for coated products, and from service centers for hot rolled pricing has been declining.” 

Becca Moczygemba

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