Steel Products Prices North America

Galvanized buyers report solid demand, balanced inventories

Written by Laura Miller

Galvanized buyers reported solid demand and balanced inventories this week and were anticipating the sheet price increase announced by Cleveland-Cliffs on Wednesday.

Service centers, distributors, and manufacturers who are members of the Heating, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) association met virtually on Tuesday, March 26, for the monthly meeting of HARDI’s Sheet Metal/Air Handling Council.

One HARDI member said the coming sheet price hike was “inevitable” due to firming lead times and some holes in service center inventories. He noted a strong order book with solid OEM contract business, as well as a pick-up in agriculture business.

“Demand is still very good for us,” commented another buyer, who also noted “average” inventories and “plenty of supply” in the marketplace.

The spread between hot-rolled and galvanized coil pricing was a key point of this month’s discussion, with members noting a significantly higher spread now vs. a year ago. As SMU’s managing editor Michael Cowden noted in his “Final thoughts” in Tuesday’s newsletter, that spread has risen to as much as $300-350 per short ton (st) vs. the post-pandemic spread of around $200/st.

HARDI members discussed how that price spread could normalize. Will cold rolled and coated pricing come down? Will HR move up?

“What mechanism will it take to get back to (normal)? Does it get back to $200?” one member wondered. There were more questions than answers on that matter. (Editor’s note: SMU has quantified the HR-CR spread over time here.)

“I do think the market has reached a bottom point. We might see a little decrease on the galv side, but I don’t think there’s a whole lot left for it to go down,” commented another member.

Galvanized sheet prices

Each month on the HARDI Sheet Metal/Air Handling Council call, a survey is conducted to see where members see galvanized steel prices moving in one, six, and twelve months.

On February’s call, nearly all members present predicted falling galvanized sheet prices for the next month. That prediction proved to be accurate.

The call moderator noted on this month’s call that prices slowly eroded over the last 5-6 weeks, with the average weekly decline totaling about $1.00/cwt ($20/st). He said galvanized sheet prices are now around $56/cwt, which is in line with SMU’s galv price range this week.

This month, 45% of members on the call predicted galvanized prices would be up more than $2/cwt over the next 30 days. Still, 25% think prices will be flat (+/- $2/cwt), while another 20% anticipate prices rising by more than $4/cwt. Only 5% foresee a rise of more than $6/cwt, while another 5% see more room for lower prices, predicting a decrease in prices of more than $2/cwt.

More than half (58%) of members think galv prices will rise by more than $2/cwt over the next six months, while another 37% predicted flat pricing.

Looking out a year from now, more than half (53%) see galv prices in the range of $50-59/cwt, in line with current pricing, while 32% foresee higher pricing in the $60-69/cwt range.

SMU participates in a monthly steel conference call hosted by HARDI. The call is dedicated to better understanding of the galvanized steel market. The participants are HARDI member companies, wholesalers who supply products to the construction markets. Also on the call are service centers and manufacturing companies that either buy or sell galvanized sheet and coil products used in the HVAC industry and are suppliers to the HARDI member companies.

Laura Miller

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