SMU Market Chatter

Steel market chatter this week

Written by Brett Linton

Earlier this week SMU polled steel buyers on an array of topics, ranging from market prices, demand, and inventories to import competitiveness and evolving chatter in the market.

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 market questionnaires.

Steel prices might be at an inflection point. How do you expect prices to trend over the next three months?

“Up, now that pent-up demand has somewhat cut loose, the mills will start pumping prices until there is resistance and customers stop placing orders, then they will chase each other to the bottom again.”

“I feel prices are going to rebound into May and then begin to move back down due to more supply than demand.”

“Prices are bottoming out and will increase for a few months. April and May will be up.”

“Expecting an uptick in price through maybe June.”

“I expect prices to rise in the next month, then become stable before hitting downward pressure with the summer slowdown.”

“Hold steady for the next couple of weeks, dip down to a bottom in April, and then rise through June before the ‘summer slowdowns.’”

“I don’t think we’re quite there get. We expect prices to fall more from here and get close to $700/ton in HRC.”

“Flat – inventories are just lean enough for mills to stay firm.”

“Flat – demand is soft, automotive has high inventory levels.”

“Likely flat over the next couple weeks with an uptick to follow.”

Is demand improving, declining or stable?

“Demand has improved, spot buying was very active coming from nothing, and contract buying is solid with monthly prices most likely bottomed.”

“Slight improvement.”


“Seems relatively stable at the moment.”

“Demand is fairly stable, but purchasing patterns are not as big buyers are just playing the waiting game waiting for low price points.”

“Demand remains stable for us, but we’re hearing pretty soft tales elsewhere.”

“Stable to soft. Auto is decent, manufacturing soft, construction steady.”

“Flat or declining, manufacturing is in a mild recession.”

“Declining – customers are slowing down for the most part.”

“Declining due to strong inventory levels and weak demand.”

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

“Probably about the same. Still hand to mouth for us.”

“Roughly the same as last year, the overall market conditions appear to be much the same as they were a year ago.”

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

“Faster – supply chain inventories are low.”

“Inventory is moving fast in this current environment, because of the bottom being found on prices.”

“Moving a little faster.”

“A bit slower, but not much.”

“Slower due to price instability at this moment.”

“Slower, due to lack of demand.”

Are imports more attractive vs. domestic material?

“No, domestic market too soft.”

“They’re still attractive, but lead times are tough.”

“Still not attractive as domestic prices are still within reason, and lead times have yet to really jump out.”

“Import pricing is good, but lacking confidence in the domestic market on their extended lead times is making them unattractive.”

“They are when domestic mills are raising prices too high, but lose their attractiveness when mills bring pricing back down to earth.”

“Not attractive.  Domestic pricing close to import pricing.  Supply is plentiful.”

“No, by the time they arrive, there is no telling where the market will be.”

“Imports are not attractive due to price and suspect quantity issues.”

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

“Mills inducing and lowering demand with their price hikes and quick drops.”

“The potential return of AHMSA now that its owner has stepped down from the board.”

“I’d love to hear more about AHMSA and Evraz. Both situations seem unknown.”

“I think politics is taking away from other issues, which may be some of the steel activities.”

“What will the steel industry look like in US after the fall election?”

Brett Linton

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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.