NEW YORK Following months
of downward pressure thanks to lackluster demand and plenty of
supply, carbon steel plate prices seem to have reversed course
on the back of a recent uptick in scrap prices and increased
"Weve continued to see
strong booking weeks across the board," one mill source said,
noting that nonetheless, the market isnt out of the woods
just yet. "We recognize that things are pretty fragile right
now, and it doesnt take much to break it. ... (So)
were watching closely."
Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor
Corp. and Lisle, Ill.-based SSAB Americas both hiked plate
prices some $30 per ton last week following increases of the
same amount announced at the end of February (
amm.com, March 8). Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA
LLC had earlier boosted plate prices by $60 per ton in a single
amm.com, Feb. 22).
As a result, actual transaction
prices have been reported at slightly higher levels this week,
particularly as some market participants said they recognized
that a turnaround seemed to be in the works.
Sources pegged the average price
of discrete plate at $720 per ton ($36 per hundredweight)
f.o.b. Midwest mill, up 1.4 percent from last weeks price
of $710 per ton ($35.50 per cwt).
"Talking to other service
centers, weve all seen an uptick in prices," one Midwest
plate buyer said. "The mills have gotten marching orders to get
their prices up."
Others agreed, noting that
business appears to have strengthened.
"Activity is good, and things
are going well," a second Midwest buyer said. "Its been a
crazy week trying to get a handle on everything. The mills,
however, seem like theyre hungry. And it looks like
orders are arriving quicker than what theyve quoted."
Oversupply has been a cause of
concern in recent months, as domestic mills were said to have
put down warehouse depots to displace imports, supplying both
commodity and value-added material. But much of that extra
material seems to have now disappeared, some sources said.
"What is particularly
interesting is the lack of time that it took to eat up the
inventory," the first buyer said. "I guess people thought they
were at the bottom, saw scrap going up, had their inventories
depleted and ordered more. They took advantage of all the
inventory on the ground."
But some sources added that a
variety of problems could potentially cause the market to fall
back down again, such as rising import volumes.
Others remained skeptical about
the possibility that prices could rise further, arguing that
the trend may be more of a matter of widespread inventory
replenishment than a response to market fundamentals.
"Business has picked up this week, definitely. Weve
sold more, and the pricing increases (are) sticking," a second
mill source said. "But talking to a number of people (makes me
realize that) its not really demand, since demand levels
are trudging along. Its that people have been spurred
into making purchasing decisions based on scrap."