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Has the US Hit it’s Peak?

US flat rolled mills have increased their prices every month so far this year, but now there are talks that demand may be faltering, and there is more hot rolled coil (HRC) availability.

Has the market finally reached its peak?

The flat rolled market has seen a wave of increases since the beginning of this year. Domestic mills have continually upped their prices to keep up with rising raw material costs and strong demand. But now it seems the market may be leveling off. Either that or perhaps a seasonal slowdown is occurring.

All of the major domestic mills made their July price announcements a couple of weeks ago, and to customers
surprise, the increase wasn’t as hefty as some expected. Whereas a couple months ago, increases were in the three-digits, the most recent one was modest comparatively. Two major mills even extended their July pricing through the month of August as well, suggesting that things may finally be beginning to cool off.

There have been a couple explanations for this, but most agree, as galvanized coil demand was losing its momentum, mills shifted their production to HRC, as that product was much stronger. Now, ironically, there is more tonnage available and not as strong of a demand for it. This could just be the usual summer doldrums, but it could also be the flat rolled market finally hitting the peak of its latest price rally.

The above offers are for August production and October deliveries as Chinese steel products for July production will not be available for exports, as they are to remain in the domestic market to be used in the relief efforts for the devastating May earthquake in China, according to government mandate.

Steel Prices – Which Way is the Market Going?

The Steel Index Reference Prices for last week (The Steel Index is owned by Steel Business Briefing).

Below is a quick summary of the past two weeks.

Hot roll coil prices – were up $5 per ton each week for the past two weeks (total of $10 ton). Over the past four weeks the change has been +$39 per ton ($1.95/cwt).

Cold rolled prices – were up by $11 per ton two weeks ago and another $10 per ton for the week ending May 18th (total of $21 per ton). Over the past four weeks prices have been higher by $69 per ton ($3.45/cwt).

Galvanized prices – were higher two weeks ago by $20 per ton. This past week the number was down by $9 per ton (total for the two week is +$11 per ton). Over the past four weeks galvanized has been higher by $73 per ton ($3.65/cwt).

Lead times – have been extending according to The Steel Index. Hot Rolled lead times are out to 7.3 weeks. Cold Rolled lead times are out to 8.7 weeks and, galvanized lead times are at 7.7 weeks. All three are slightly longer than the previous week’s report.

Stock Levels – appear to becoming very stable. 70% of respondents reported “no change” while only 15% each reported that their inventories “increased” or “decreased”. Sounds like a balanced inventory situation to me.

Demand Outlook over the Next 3 Months – demand appears to be leaning toward a decrease as 10% of the respondents are now reporting that business will “strongly decrease”, another 20% called for a “decrease” and about 50% called for “no change”.

Price Outlook for the next 3 months – continues to be heavily weighted towards believing that higher prices are ahead during the next three months. However, 10% of the respondents “strongly disagree” with that assessment.(Source: The Steel Index)

Congress Moves toward “Buy American” Steel for Schools

There is a move in the U.S. Congress to protect schools from “unsafe steel from China” and elsewhere. The 21st-Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act (H.R. 3021) would mandate American made steel in all public school construction projects. The legislation is supported by the Congressional Steel Caucus.

Earlier this year the Steel Market Update along with Steel Business Briefing and other news organizations reported on the failure of Chinese pipe and tubing that had been installed in public schools in California. It was discovered that the pipe and tubing did not meet the testing standards to which it had been ordered.

Representative Pete Visclosky held hearings in April about sub-standard steel being imported into the United States. According to an American Metal Market article U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection had no way of monitoring the safety of foreign steel.

H.R. 3021 would require that any facility using federal funds under the jurisdiction of the Transportation Department, Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security must use 100% domestic steel. This measure would apply to civilian and military construction projects including airports, bridges, railroads, tunnels, harbors, piers and the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico. All would need to utilize 100% domestically produced steel.

According to AMM the bill is not expected to go anywhere this year but, there are speculations that if Obama becomes president it would quickly pass. (Source: American Metal Market)

Chameleon Brings New Life to Old Equipment

Recently, if an industrial carousel manufacturer discontinued supporting its controls package, the equipment dependent on it was doomed as instantly obsolete. Manufacturers controls systems are inherently proprietary.

For years, thousands of warehouse and distribution centers around the world have utilized these vertical and horizontal carousel systems to store and retrieve the products they manufacture and distribute.

The status quo required buyers of these systems, to be inherently dependent on the manufacturers to supply all of the support, repair, installation, updates and/or parts necessary to keep these systems operational for the owners. Due to the proprietary control systems that operate these systems, there was no other alternative in the event a buyer wanted to outsource these functions to someone other than the original manufacturer.

With thousands of systems now deemed unsupported, old and/or outdated by the manufacturer, many see a sizable market alternative to the status quo. A sizable, ever growing market for an alternative controls solution which could operate any make or model of older vertical or horizontal carousel regardless of age, make, model does exist.

While industry insiders agree the need and market are real, developing it is not. “Its like trying to find the holy grail”, said one insider. Like the grail, many have tried but all have failed.

Or have they? Some think not.

Recently news has hit the material handling industry about a controls system appropriately named “Chameleon” (because it adapts to everything) rumored to do what many thought impossible. The creators of Chameleon claim the controller can be adapted to any industrial ASRS carousel. Any carousel as in any make, any model, old or new, doesn’t matter what carousel they claim. Even ASRS carousel systems declared obsolete or no longer supported by the manufacturer? “Especially carousels deemed obsolete by the manufacturer,” said Stafford Sterner, a company spokesman.

The key benefit Chameleon offers is bringing new life into equipment thought to be obsolete and worthless. In addition, the elimination of the need to purchase unwanted upgrades in order to maintain warranty and support on an existing system is a big plus as well. Chameleon Carousel Controls provide an economical option for systems that till now, where anything but.

Users can use the touch screen to select a bin location and automatically bring the part to the operations area. The carousel can also be run in Manual or Jog mode, and the system includes full diagnostics and error messages. Encoder type carousels can be “Homed” automatically, or proximity carousels can be positioned at any location.

“The key benefit Chameleon offers,” says Sterner “is the elimination of the need to purchase unwanted upgrades in order to maintain warranty and support on an existing system. Chameleon Carousel Controls provide an economical option.” For users requiring more sophisticated search and retrieval tools, The company is currently testing a PC-based software control option for Chameleon due for release this summer.

Read more about Chameleon Carousel Controls and related software at

US flat rolled steel market braces for another price leap

It is pretty much inevitable that US flat rolled prices for July production are headed up, but the question is by how much?

Source: SteelOrbis Bulletin

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Scrap numbers said to be a key factor to watch

Nucor Scrap Surcharge (contracts) to Increase by $120/Ton

Nucor’s scrap surcharge will increase on June 1, 2008 by $120 per ton ($6.00/cwt) based on the latest published #1 Busheling scrap prices. This increase comes after an increase of $170 per ton for the month of May.

Number 1 Busheling has moved from $430/l.t. in March to $600/l.t. in April and is now being published at $720/l.t. for May. The May number determines the surcharge that Nucor will charge for the following month (June).

As I have mentioned on a number of occasions the scrap numbers are one of the key pricing factors that we need to watch.” said John Packard. “We can now anticipate that Nucor will announce their flat-rolled spot prices some time this week (I would anticipate early this week) and the increase could be in excess of the $70 per ton announced by AK Steel earlier this month.”

AK Steel’s base prices on HR for July are $56.25/cwt and I anticipate that Nucor’s number may exceed the AK Steel number.

Source: John Packard:

Possible shortages of light gauge galvanized

I am hearing that there may be a shortage of light gauge galvanized/Galvalume during the July time frame. I am aware of a Chinese galvanizing line that is experiencing problems that may cause it to not ship approximately 15,000 tons of light gauge galvanized meant for the U.S. market.

I am also hearing ArcelorMittal may be having some issues – especially working through the changes necessary with the sale of Sparrows Point and the supply of material to the Double G coating facility in Jackson, Mississippi.

Source :

At the same time I am hearing from HVAC suppliers that inventories are tight at the moment but there is a concern a combination of hedge buying by end users coupled with continued buying of allocated tons by both the service centers and wholesalers may cause a surge in supply during the month of July. I would appreciate any information that you would like to share regarding your particular situation and what you are seeing and hearing from your customers/suppliers.

Scrap – SDI bought another scrap supplier within the past few days. Nucor has been buying up sources as well.

This is something steel buyers need to be aware of and to watch as it can go two ways

1) control of the sources guarantees the mini-mills ample scrap now and into the future.

2) Control of the sources of steel scrap can artificially keep the price of scrap high – thus hurting the buyers of steel products – and pumping up the bottom line of the mills in control of scrap.

Steel Prices – SDI (June), USS (July), Nucor (July), ArcelorMittal (July), Severstal – especially Sparrows Point (July) and the conversion mills – The Techs, Sharon Coatings, CSN and Wheeling Nisshin should all be coming out with prices either yet this week or, if they want to be nice to me because I’m on vacation, by early next week. Please send me an email or a call when you get the news.

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