US Steel Mills Move To Establish Price Floor For Sheet Steel

28 June 2016

Sheet steel price increases US mills announced this week served to set a floor, according to sources, who said Friday that buyers are still reluctant to place large orders.

“We’re seeing it from our service center customers. They’re sensing the prices are going to fall. If they were giving you 500-1,000 st orders at a time, now it’s like 100 or 200” st, a mill source said.

There is a lot of “angst” in the market that prices have risen this high, he said.

Before the increases, hot-rolled coil prices might have been a little more negotiable, but nobody has cut prices dramatically or even begun discounting extras, he added.

“If you had a stated price and two to three weeks ago that was a little firm. Now you can negotiate a little on HRC,” the source said, adding that some smaller buyers are able to book at $620-$625/st.

The price increase announcements made by four mills served to establish a pricing floor, the mill source said. ArcelorMittal USA set minimum base pricing for HRC at $630/st and cold-rolled coil at $830/st.

A service center source said he has not seen any HRC pricing below $620/st. His buying activity has been muted, and he expects business to remain uneventful until after the July 4 holiday. “I think HR will be under pressure big time after that though. It will be interesting to see how long the other products can hold on after that happens,” he said.

The Platts daily HRC and CRC price assessments remained unchanged Friday at $625-$635/st and $820-$840/st, respectively. Both assessments are normalized to an ex-works Midwest (Indiana) basis.

A trader said buyers are avoiding making large purchases, fearing a downward correction in pricing. “The heavy buying did happen, so buyers are able to be selective. However, the buyers counting on a large correction — and talking openly about it — will likely be disappointed,” he said.

He expects mills may make some adjustments to bring HRC prices back to $600/st, but prices will not fall much further than the current range, he said. With ongoing trade cases and current domestic steel prices, the trader said he did not believe there would be a large volume of imports coming later this year.

In terms of imports, the trader said he had heard of some imported HRC at around $525/st CIF Houston, but he said there are no imported HRC sales to customers happening at $500/st loaded truck, despite what people may be saying in the market.


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