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 events.

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

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“Domestic prices keep softening as expectation is lower prices in the near term. Maybe another month max as inventories are lower now, so it only takes one mill to announce a price increase to get them all going up. Imports are not a factor now due to lead-time risk.”

“I expect prices are close to a bottom, and do see some rebound, but not as high as history would tell you as I see Nucor’s CSP as tempering the market.”

“We are at or very near the bottom.  I believe with the lack of imports arriving and very few new orders being placed, the market will firm up.”

“By month’s end I expect prices to start increasing.”

“Expect a bottom in late June or July, getting close to cost of conversion.”

“Flat, at these lower levels.”

“Down in June followed by a slow-up as imports wane, big buys wrap up, and mills push for increases.”

“It should level out. Can’t see the mills letting it go down anymore and there is nothing to push it up right now.”

“I feel pricing has not hit bottom yet and may fall another 10% and be stable until demand increases in the fall.”

“Lower, slowing economy and high interest rates.”

“We are expecting things to continue to drift lower. Other than mills simply ‘wanting’ a floor, why in the world would things start going back up?”

“Flat from June through July, trending up in August slightly.”

“Lower, demand driven.”

Is demand improving, declining or stable?

“Demand remains stable at best.”

“Demand is stable for us, but our mill and service center vendors are both saying most folks are slow.”

“Demand is flat to down. However, somewhat stable.”

“Mixed bag – contract customers are buying at the assumed bottom of the market, but transactional customers are a challenge as market selling price keeps falling to unprofitable levels.”

“Demand is declining but expected to improve, once buyers see contract prices reset at lower levels, believe they will start to restock.”

“Still declining due to economy and inflation is still high.”

“Declining – high interest rates, inflationary pressures.”

“Declining in our sector.”

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

“Slower, with both spot and contract paused at the moment.”

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

“Slower due to demand reduction.”

“Slower, cautious buyers only buying exactly what’s needed, nothing more.”

“Slower – business is waiting for the bottom to reorder.”

“Same, inventories are lean.”

“About the same.”

“Appears faster with smaller buys… probably slower overall.”

“Inventory is moving a wee bit faster for us, but we’ve done a decent job of adding some business to our core over the last few quarters.”


Are imports more attractive than domestic material?

“Import pricing is still pretty darn good, but we don’t love the longer lead times (vs. domestics), especially in a falling market.”

“Probably better right now if the price of steel goes back up in the next three months.”

“Imports are still attractive, but spreads have been closing on coated products to about 8-10% vs. domestic and falling.”

“Imports are always less expensive.”

“Depends on the product type.”

“Imports are less attractive due to lowering of domestic prices, shorter domestic lead time risk, future lower price expectations, uncertain future demand.”

“Not on plate and HRC as lead time too long in soft domestic market.”

“With where domestic prices have fallen, they are not as attractive as they once were.”

“Short lead times make domestic pricing more attractive.”

“Less attractive. Domestic pricing levels are in line with imports, lead times are short, it is too risky to make speculative buys.”

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

“Demand is not that bad.”

“The mill increases everyone assumed were coming never happened. Short term HR futures are in free-fall.”

“Continuing volatility in prices. Smaller range, but still wild swings and in a shorter period of time.”

“Plate market share loss to significantly lower priced HR coils for conversion to plate.”

“What happens to the steel market if government-funded projects are pulled back?”

“Projects being postponed or cancelled in 2024 for various reasons. Mainly the election outcome uncertainty.”

“How will the US and Canadian steel markets be affected by increasing tariff discussions.”

“Imported finished goods are surging due to lower ocean freight rates, tariff avoidance, low steel prices in China.”

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.”