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 prices, demand, and inventories to imports and evolving market events.

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

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“I think we have another couple weeks of pricing under pressure, and then the mills should be able to push prices up a bit with stronger bookings in August on the back of cheaper contract prices and the auto shutdowns out of the way. But, ultimately, in three months pricing is probably back under pressure.”

“Lower to sideways, difficult to see prices rising meaningfully in the near term without a disruption on the supply side.”

“We are expecting a bit more downward momentum, with some form of ‘settling’ in August and then maybe some slight dips from there. So not a rosy outlook from us.”

“I feel they will continue to move a little lower and stay in the $600s (HRC) for the next couple months, then start to move up.”

“Should flatten out as it won’t make sense to keep producing any lower.”

“We are near the bottom and something will spur activity and a price rise over the next three months.”

“Will bottom out in August and will start increasing by $100 per ton in three months due to less capacity utilization by mills.”

“Prices are bottoming out soon. I expect them to increase by $ 100/ton or more in the next few months.”

“Flat to slightly down more with plate. Plate may have a little more room to drop but not much before leveling off.”

“Futures say it should be trending up, but I think the market will remain flat until supply is limited.”

“It will drop a bit more and then it should start going back up when the mills put their foot down.”

Is demand improving, declining, or stable?

“Demand is weak…”

“Declining due to economy is slowing and interest rates are still high.”

“Demand has declined with prices under pressure and auto shutdowns.”

“Declining, economy for big ticket items or non-essential purchases is way down.”

“Demand is weak, not improving but very flat.”

“Stable to down slightly.”

“Demand is stable for us, but we seem to be the outlier. Most bigger OEMs and SSCs we talk to are worrisomely slow.”

“Stable at best.”

“Stable, but lower than forecasted.”


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

“Slower, nobody is buying more than they need right now.”

“Slower, with prices under pressure right now.”

“Slower, due to demand has slowed over past quarter.”

“Slower – the economy is slowing down.”

“Slower – it’s that time of the year.”

“Slower, auto plant shutdowns in July.”

“A bit slower.”

“About the same.”

“Inventory is moving about the same for us but we are definitely running lean purposefully.”


Are imports more attractive than domestic material?

“We’ve heard some low-rumored numbers into Houston but nothing on paper. And even those low figures rival some of the deals we’ve heard Midwest mills making for a few thousand tons.”

“Import pricing is still pretty good (or level) vs. domestics, but the lead times aren’t worth the gamble in our opinion.”

“Could be. If the price of steel has bottomed, this may be the perfect time to lock in material for three to four months from now.”

“Imports are only attractive on some pre-painted or harder-to-get items. Longer leads vs. domestics make them less attractive due to arrival time risks.”

“No, not yet – as global economies slow import pricing will drop further.”

“No, pricing and lead time.”

“Not attractive, prices aren’t that much better, lead times too far out. Risk not worth the reward.”

“Domestic is cheaper and lead times are half of offshore.”

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

“Drop in futures from the last few months compared to what was projected as a forward curve is massive.”

“Are inventories getting too low?”

“Manufacturing is seeing some slowdowns that are being reported.”

“Impact of slowing EV sales, big ticket EV and battery plant pull-backs, and lack of real demand for offshore wind in the US.”

“When and if AHMSA will restart and what impact to Mexico or US markets.”

“Evraz still up for sale with no action on the market to who is interested.”

Brett Linton

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Latest in SMU Market Chatter

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.”