NEW YORK Demand for imported structural steel products
remains slim to none, but market participants anticipate a
turnaround in the New Year if a solution to the fiscal cliff
Much of the difficulty in selling imports in recent months
stems from the fact that imported pricing has hovered very
close to domestic pricing, which discourages buyers to take the
plunge with long lead times from countries such as Turkey,
That lack of a pricing advantage, coupled with a poor domestic
construction sector, has caused little to no traction in the
structural steel import market, sources said.
Things have been really tough. The spreads between
domestic and import are getting tighter and tighter and foreign
mills dont do a lot of rebates, said one trader.
Demand has been really low and theres just no
confidence in the market. Were hoping to see a bounce in
2013, but well see how it goes.
Prices for imported steel angles to the Port of Houston were
reported at $680 to $720 per ton this past week, sources said,
although transactions were thin on the ground. This compares
with domestic prices of about $763 per tontoo small of a
spread to make imported product particularly attractive,
Beam sales to the Port of Houston were reported at $720 to $760
per ton this past week, although few buyers said they were
interested. This compares with domestic prices of $745 to $780
Earlier this month, a number of structural mills raised
merchant and beam tags by $35 per ton for December shipments
amm.com, Nov. 19
), but most sources agreed that
expected spike wont be enough to encourage more activity
in the imported market just yet.
The (domestic) mills had to drop prices by a lot in the
last few months because of scrap, so they had huge cuts and
discounts. Now, with the increases, theyre back even,
although nothing of this nature ever sticks, one service
center source said. Theyre trying to stop the
bleeding and hoping itll stick. But even now, imports are
certainly not playing a factor.
Overall economic uncertainty also continues to weigh down the
imported structurals market. Sources had previously said that
the passing of the elections would allow for stability in the
market; however, some now point to the fiscal cliff as the
Some people have ordered a little, but its not
anything regular. Its nothing exciting, said a
second trader. I dont see serious buying. People
are sitting on their hands right now, and waiting for the
fiscal cliff to be over. Everyone thought the elections would
have solved our problems, but Congress is still fighting even
after the elections.
Buyers cite the lack of construction activity as their main
deterrent to purchasing more product.
There are no jobs in construction right now. Everyone is
waiting on the taxes to see whats going to happen in the
new year, said the service center source. The down
cycles are much longer these days. Weve got no inventory
because were just burning through it.
But it may not be all bad news for the sector. The Commerce
Department said Tuesday that housing starts rose to their
highest level in more than four years in October, up 3.6
percent to 894,000 units. Others added that nonresidential
construction may likely pick up some six to eight months after
housing, suggesting a possible turnaround in the sector.
And not everyone has felt the pains of a sluggish market. A
second service center source said that activity for his company
has increased surprisingly in recent weeks and that
domestic mills seem to be showing stronger order books.
We had a good October ... and November has been fairly
steady so far, the source added. I dont think
anyone is loading up on inventory just yet, and I dont
think anyone has confidence in this market or the price
increases lasting very long. But I think if Congress can just
get together on this whole fiscal cliff, it might actually help