SMU Market Chatter

Steel market chatter this week

Written by Brett Linton

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, SMU polled steel buyers on an array of topics, ranging from market prices, demand, and inventories to imports and evolving market chatter.

We are sharing some of the comments we collected in each buyer’s own words rather than rewriting them in our own.

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Steel prices appear to have turned and slipped a bit last week. How do you expect prices to trend over the next three months?

“I feel we will see prices continue to slip lower, but at more of a gradual pace. I feel the new mill published pricing slowed/stopped a drastic run-up for HRC and the inevitable crash we typically see when mills push pricing too far.”

“Bounce along bottom until summer. Only caveat will be additional outages to create upward pressure.”

“Overall fairly flat, maybe a little softening in the short term, especially if Nucor continues to lower their weekly price for no reason.”

“I think the next month is the biggest challenge with prices already being challenged and the summer slowdown on the way, ultimately feel buyers push too much and then prices rebound.”

“That depends on steel mill price indexes that act like independent indexes. If people believe they are representative of prices, then the trend will be flat to down as they are trying to create a non-direction to keep things flatter.”

“Down, down, down. Seasonality, bearish sentiment, overcapacity, lead times, imports, scrap, ‘OK’ demand, CSP… choose your buzzy topic, all are pointing towards lower prices.”

“Continued erosion – economy slowing due to high interest rates and inflation. Federal money slow to be distributed. Renewables slowing – high costs make them impossible to justify.”

“I think they may trend down – still a very slow market – business is down.”

“Down – more imports arriving and slowing economy.”

“$800-820 [hot rolled]. Demand is not strong enough. Imports will come in and the Euro is ‘cheap.’”

“Flat to lower, lackluster demand… . Galv spread seems unsustainable given imports and additional capacity coming online.”

“Stable to slight reduction mainly due to slow demand and good inventories still at service centers.”

“A mile step back last week. We should expect them to slowly creep up.”

Is demand improving, declining, or stable?


“Demand is stable, thank God! Could you imagine this market if things were soft-soft?!?”

“Demand remains stable.”


“Stable and on track with our forecasts, but lower than previous years.”

“Stable to declining due to high interest rates and slowing economy.”

“Demand is flat to down and it’s mainly due to supply and price uncertainty.”

“Declining – distribution is slow. Projects slow due to interest rates and inflation.”

“Demand is declining, with prices being challenged and expected to fall and auto slowing in July.”

“Declining – too much automotive inventory.”

“Declining – look at GDP dropping.”

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

“Faster as cycles compress and buyers move to beat the swings.”

“Inventory is moving about the same, if not a smidge faster, but we continue to run things purposefully lean.”

“About same pace.”

“Similar – more controls in place.”

“Inventory most likely moving slower right now because of prices being challenged.”

“Slower due to slower demand for construction than forecasted.”

“Slower than last year. I feel higher interest rates and in general the economy.”

“Slower – slowing economy.”

Are imports more attractive than domestic material?

“Imports are still attractive pricing-wise, it is just a matter of trying to time things with regards to lead times.”

“Imports are attractive based on certain products and grades.”

“Yes – especially Asian mills, they are getting desperate for orders.”

“They are getting less attractive as domestic prices fall, but still an advantage.”

“Imports are always attractively priced.”

“Some are and some aren’t.”

“Domestic due to short lead times and stable pricing.”

“Not attractive due to customer requirements.”

“No – too long to arrive on shore.”

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

“AHMSA ‘s potential restart is getting a bit more press, which is good. All quiet on the Evraz NA front, which is interesting. Could something be brewing?”

“Buyers pulling back sooner than expected my decrease some of the downside risk as inventories never really got restocked.”

“Nobody needs a price break.”

“Evraz sale.”

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.