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 imports and evolving market chatter.

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

Want to have your voice heard? Contact david@steelmarketupdate.com to be included in our market questionnaires.

Steel prices saw momentum pause last week. How do you expect prices to trend over the next three months?

“Slowly but surely prices will continue to increase. Mills will continue to pressure the market.”

“Anticipate pricing to move up as much as the market will bear. Although really depends on short term demand. I don’t anticipate large movement on price either up or down.”

“I expect prices to rise a bit more in the next few weeks before coming under pressure again when lead times hit June. Then prices fall over the next six weeks or so until lead times hit late July and the mills try to push prices up from what was lost in the two months prior.”

“Prices most likely will remain steady and/or rise.”

“Pricing will be flat over next two to three months unless interest rates trend lower.”

“Discrete plate will remain flat to slightly higher over the next three months.”

“I think we’ll ebb and flow around these figures but ultimately drift lower. We see no true catalyst to push things higher.”

“Expect a drop over the next few months. Nucor’s new price mechanism will help curb mill price increases simply to boost prices.”

“Demand might soften if high Fed interest rates remain. That is their goal, right? Slow the economy?! If supply remains the same or increases as more capacity comes online and mill maintenance ends then pressure will be on prices.”

“I feel due to simple supply and demand imbalance, we will see prices declining.”

“Down – higher imports and slowing economy.”

Is demand improving, declining, or stable?

“Discrete plate demand is improving.”

“Improving.”

“Next 60 days looks to be down a bit, but longer term third quarter demand is looking better.”

“Demand is stable for us, which seems better than most.”

“Stable, all of the indicators are suggesting the market is stable.”

“Stable. General “not-so-good” market will gradually be complemented by IRA and IIJA projects.”

“Stable for H1, soft so far in H2.”

“Demand is stable to falling – high interest rates and slowing economy.”

“Demand is stable to declining, after the Nucor CSP announcement being less than CRU, buyers are possibly waiting on purchases again for the spot market.”

“Demand is softening this past week.”

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

“Faster as folks keep less stock on hand and mill lead times stay low.”

“Inventory is currently running faster as customers pull contract heavy with prices trailing and spot had come in heavy for April, but expect to slow down.”

“Faster due to price increases that were established over the past month.”

“Inventory is moving maybe slightly faster, but that is because we’re capturing market share as a relatively new player in our space.”

“It appears to be moving a little slower, however, in reality, it is most likely similar to last year at the same time.”

“Discrete plate inventory is moving steady at this time. Will pick up soon.”

“Inventory is moving at about the same pace.”

“Same movement, just more competition and lower margins.”

Are imports more attractive than domestic material?

“Imports are always more attractively priced.”

“Imports remain attractive price-wise, it is just a matter of if lead time is ‘stomach-able’.”

“Yes, laid down cost is lower than domestic but lead times are long vs. domestic (8 weeks vs. 12-14 weeks).”

“Imports are somewhat price competitive but longer lead times and future price risk of softening is making imports less attractive now.”

“Yes, but not in a position to take advantage. Also, domestic market always changing.”

“Yes, plenty of supply globally looking for a home.

“Pricing might be more attractive for certain difficult to-forecast items; however, more important is to focus on the true cost. Domestic material is almost always the way to purchase to control cost and spend from my perspective since we have excellent relationships with the domestic producers.”

“Getting close with European prices continuing to drop and the Euro losing strength.”

“Discrete plate imports are not attractive at this time.”

“Our customers require domestic so imports are not an option.”

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

“There is still a lot of uncertainty of how 2024 will finish. It is not slowing down business yet, but people are on eggshells.”

“China is about to release economic data on Tuesday, and anything they publicly admit to is likely much worse. Supply in SEA is way over demand, and China hasn’t slowed down enough.”

“China is exporting a lot of steel.”

“The lack of new import orders being placed.”

“Lead times due to Suez Canal and Port of Baltimore issues.”

“Will Ahmsa really restart in September and what’s the impact?”

“It is nice to get some clarity on the AHMSA saga. Likewise, it sounds like maybe Evraz will play out soon. How about the idea of more (big boy) service center consolidation though?”

“Section 232 impacts and what direction we will see tariffs going.”

“The NBA 2024 Playoffs and all of the steel that is in the arenas where the teams play :-)”

Brett Linton

Read more from Brett Linton

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Steel market chatter this week

SMU surveyed our market contacts this week about steel prices, demand, and the overall marketplace. Below are some of the buyers' responses in their own words to help you get a feel for current and future market conditions. Demand is a big topic of discussion currently. Is it steady, falling, or on the upswing with summer construction heating up? As you can see from the answers below, it depends on who you ask. One buyer’s response sums it up pretty well: “I still see the marketplace as soft/stable with some segments busy, while others tread water.”

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.