SMU Market Chatter

Steel market chatter this week

Written by Laura Miller

What are folks in the steel industry talking about at present?

Respondents to SMU’s mini-survey this week shared some of their thoughts with us about what’s going on in the market. Rather than summarizing their responses, here’s some of what they had to say in their own words.

Thank you to everyone who shared your time and insights!

And if you don’t participate in our survey but would like to, please contact David Schollaert at

Steel prices are still moving lower. How do you expect prices to trend over the next three months, and why?

“Lower. Negative talk breeds negative results, and nobody I know is talking positive. Prices will continue to fall.”

“Continued erosion for some time.”

“They are definitely moving lower, both at the mill level and from service centers. We’ve probably got another month of significant decreases and then more soft to level. Just OK demand, imports, soft scrap, and short domestic mill lead times are all problems.”

“Move down over the next 4-6 weeks, hitting a bottom. Slight bounce to follow. Import volume will arrive, forcing mills to run less (EAFs will slow). Potentially, a furnace being shuttered. Look for a price increase out the mills within the next three weeks.”

“Sometime in April, I expect an abrupt turnaround.”

“Drop another $50 to $70 per ton.”

“Likely fall through April, bottom near late April/early May.”

“Prices will most likely remain stable and drop in Q2 vs. Q1.”

“We will hit a bottom soon and gain some strength throughout Q2.”

“I feel we have a little further to go down, and then pricing will be somewhat level with little blips up and down.”

“Flattening over the next three months then slowly starting to go up as mills force supply to be short by removing tonnage from the market.”

“I would expect over the next few weeks that we will see the mills try to push prices back up, but do not expect that to last much past the summer slowdown by the time lead times reach late June when pricing will be pushed down again.”

“Down to a level of $800-850 by May, then starting back up as imports decline.”

Is demand improving, declining or stable, and why?

“Stable.” – Four respondents

“Stable. Not robust.”

“Stable at best.”

“Demand softer. Price reduction means customers are holding back.”

“Demand seems soft to stable for most. I keep hearing automotive is soft, which isn’t good for anyone.”

“Stable to soft as we see some slippage in the manufacturing numbers.”

“Demand is stable but should start to improve once we reach a bottom, and then buyers will once again start to re-stock and make order books look better than they should.”

“Demand is good; buying activity is falling, waiting for the bottom.”

“Declining. Automotive inventory has finally right-sized.”

“Declining due to high interest rates and China’s economy is in a slowdown.”

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

“Slower.” – Five respondents

“Slower … slightly.”

“A bit slower … likely due to falling prices.”

“Slower and slower and slower each day.”

“Inventory is moving about the same with an uptick in G90 usage.”

“Inventory is moving at about the same pace as last year.”

“Slower – customers are waiting for the bottom.”

“Slower. Demand didn’t react as expected.”

“Contract business is moving about the same, but spot business is absolutely slower than last year.”

“Faster – lower levels.”

“Slower due to low demand.”

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

“Probably the same two issues we’ve relayed before: (1) Is AHMSA coming back to the market? We keep hearing mixed things. And (2) Who will be buying the Evraz pieces? It sounds like private equity and then maybe spinning them off to other steel folks.”

“Cliffs’ quest to take over the world!”

“The fact mills will get aggressive to make sure prices keep declining for more than a quarter.”

“Will the outages have any impact on the mills’ ability to pull prices up?”

“Effect and timing of the new galv capacity coming online.”

“Automotive slowdown and how it will affect the steel market.”

Laura Miller

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Final thoughts

Last week was a newsy one for the US sheet market. Nucor’s announcement that it would publish a weekly HR spot price was the talk of the town – whether that was in chatter among colleagues, at the Boy Scouts of America Metals Industry dinner, or in SMU’s latest market survey. Some think that it could Nucor's spot HR price could bring stability to notoriously volatile US sheet prices, according to SMU's latest steel market survey. Others think it’s too early to gauge its impact. And still others said they were leery of any attempt by producers to control prices.