LONDON (Scrap Monster): US flat product prices recorded downward movements in March according to the latest report by MEPS (International) Ltd. Mills failed to maintain selling figures for hot rolled coil at the February level.
Transaction values dropped approximately 7 percent and have been driven down by cheaper scrap values and the anticipated arrival of cheap imports. There is also negative pressure from the construction sector as well as from the distributors. However, general engineering, together with barge making, mining machinery and harvesting equipment, is providing plenty of business for the steelmakers.
The energy, transport, agriculture and earthmoving equipment sectors in the US have good order books, which are expected to become even stronger as the year progresses. This will benefit plate consumption. However, demand from the construction industry remains muted. The prospect of the arrival of cheap offshore plate from Poland and Russia in April is creating downward price pressure.
Cold rolled coil transaction values declined by over 6 percent in March. This was attributed to subdued demand combined with the threat of cheaper imports on the horizon. Buyers were cautious about rebuilding stocks at a time when scrap costs were declining.
US car manufacturers’ demand for coated steel will increase at a time when the outlook for the construction industry becomes more optimistic. Consequently, domestic supply in the general market is likely to become restricted, especially as a number of mill outages are planned for that period. For the moment, coated coil prices have contracted, in line with the cold rolled substrate.
Despite the decrease in selling figures for March, US mills have announced increases for April in an attempt to prevent further price erosion. These are likely to be accepted by the market and result in a firming of transaction values in the short term. However, oversupply could limit the size of any potential increases.