Galvanized buyers report an above-average start to new year

Written by Laura Miller

After a strong fourth quarter, galvanized steel market participants report an above-average start to January and are cautiously optimistic for the rest of 2024.

Service centers, distributors, and manufacturers who are members of the Heating, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) association convened via Zoom on Tuesday, Jan. 16, for the monthly meeting of the Sheet Metal/Air Handling Council.

Many members on the call reported an excellent Q4, although some reported a softening towards the end of the quarter due to the holidays. One member, however, noted a solid finish to the year with a busier-than-usual period between Christmas and New Year’s.

Although there was talk of a recession last year, 2023 was much better than many members had expected, with solid demand throughout the year.

At SMU’s Steel Summit last August, several analysts had predicted a ‘boring’ 2024. However, one distributor on the call noted that, as we start the new year, “we’re still far above the levels that most of the analysts were forecasting” when it comes to steel pricing.

“Hopefully, 2024 is like 2023 in that it’s better than economists predict,” another member commented.

“I don’t think 2024 will be boring, at least I hope not,” said another distributor on the call. “We usually fare better when things aren’t boring.”

Several members commented on the rising cost of imported steel, with many of the deals for cheaper imported material drying up. One member referred to the “import boogeyman,” saying that the rising cost of imports from countries that can offer steel to the East Coast is compressing upward.

“At least for a few months, the ability for imports to cause a correction is going to be a little while off,” that member noted.

Galvanized sheet prices

On the Nov. 21, 2023, HARDI call, almost all of the members present (96%) were right with their prediction that galvanized sheet prices would rise by more than $2/cwt ($40/ton) over the next month. Prices moved up a “legitimate” $10/cwt over that 30-day period, a member pointed out.

The Jan. 16 HARDI call put current galvanized base prices at around $67/cwt ($1,340/ton), which is in line with SMU’s reported galvanized price of $66.50/cwt ( $1,330/ton) as of Jan. 9, according to our interactive pricing tool.

On the Jan. 16 call, 41% of members predicted that galv prices will be flat (+/- $2/cwt) 30 days from now. While 22% anticipate prices to be down $2-4/cwt, another 22% said prices will be up $2-4/cwt.

Nearly half (47%) of members expect base prices to drop by $6-10/cwt in the next six months, and a majority (59%) believe prices will be $50-59/cwt ($1,000-1,180/ton) a year from now.

Laura Miller

Read more from Laura Miller

Latest in OEMs