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.

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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“I expect prices to bottom out in the next week or two and then trend up over the next 6-8 weeks before buyers are able to push back again.”

“I expect a bottoming out in the next 2-3 weeks. I expect a mill increase to be announced in the next week or so as CME HR futures are pointing up with no economic reason why the market should change direction.”

“Continue a bit lower, but bottoming ‘soon’ as imports start drying up.”

“We are expecting a pretty good down cycle here, maybe until late summer even. No real reasons out there for things to turn around in the immediate term.”

“If demand does not pick up or capacity taken offline, prices will continue to decline.”

“Lower, slowing economy and cheap imports.”

“Stable to $650 to 700 per ton until interest rates start to fall.”

“Discrete plate may trend slightly lower.”

“Coil to rise slightly, plate flat.”

“Up from here.”

Is demand improving, declining or stable?

“Declining, this was a very slow week going into the holiday, and I expect this week to be slow as buyers are on vacation.”

“Demand has declined with prices falling, but expect with prices bottoming, buyers will return for July lead times.”

“Declining, too much automotive inventory in pipeline.”

“Declining due to market demand is slow mainly due to high interest rates.”

“Declining, customers are waiting for the bottom.”

“Demand remains sluggish.”

“Declining, recession.”

“Stable to declining slightly.”

“Demands seems just ‘OK’ at best. The bigger the outfit, the slower they are it seems.”

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

“Inventory for us is moving fast, but we’re also keeping less on hand.”

“A bit faster as folks play close to the vest.”

“Faster, inventories are lower as end-users anticipate lower prices in the future.”

“Slower due to slower demand and good inventories at service centers.”

“A bit slower.”

“Slower, with prices falling.”

“Slower, declining demand.”

“Slower, we don’t want to sell at a loss.”

Are imports more attractive than domestic material?

“Yes, pricing is becoming lower than domestic except lead times are long.”

“With domestic numbers falling, biting off some imports becomes a wee bit riskier. The numbers are still good, though.”


“Not anymore for HRC but still for CRC, HDG and other value added.”

“Imports are not as attractive with prices falling.”

“No, lead times are too long.”

“No, they take too long to get here in a very unstable market.”

“Not attractive.”

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

“So many giant service centers are selling at minimal or no profit. This has been happening for a while. We collectively need these mammoths of the industry to stop racing to the bottom with price to allow for better overall profit margins. With 3-month treasury notes yielding over 5% and some major players yielding 0.5% or less Q1 margin, the insanity needs to stop. Investors need to stop having an appetite for loss/ minimal yields.”

“The real truth on how manufacturing is doing. We have seen over 500 people being laid off in our area.”

“Lead times are not as bad as buyers expected, which means most will miss the bottom of the market.”

“Lack of new import orders being replaced.”

“We keep hearing the Evraz NA sale is getting close (for real this time!), but who knows?!?”

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.”