The monthly Raw Steels MMI® registered a value of 51 in October, a decrease of 1.9% from 52 in September.
Even though the 1.9% decline is not very big, we keep seeing sharp declines among steel products. A recent example was plate prices in the US, one of the steel products featured in our monthly forecast. Toward the end of the month, plate fell from $561 per short ton to $519/st. That’s a 10% decline in only one week.
Sharp declines are par for the course in our current bear market. Over the past few years, placing forward buys has only served to reduce profit margins, not to manage risk. It is critical to understand the market we are in, because different buying strategies work for different markets.
Foreign markets have provided a home for the glut of steel that the oversupplied Chinese market has created with its overcapacity and weak demand. Chinese exports continue to grow year-over-year. In September, the vice-chairman of the China Iron & Steel Association (CISA) said that they expect Chinese steel product exports to exceed 100 million metric tons this year. So far, during the first 8 months, product exports reached 71.87 mmt, up 26.5% compared to the same period in 2014.
Solid automotive and construction data simply don’t make up for the slowdown in the same sectors in China. On top of that, we have a steel production cost declining thanks to lower oil, scrap and iron ore costs. In September crude oil fell again, remaining below $50 a barrel. Similarly, iron ore prices remained at low levels in September, below $55/mt.
What This Means For Metal Buyers
Based on the latest numbers, Chinese automotive, construction and manufacturing activity keep pointing down. As long as we don’t see improvements in China, more steel price declines might be around the corner. It seems like the time to start buying forward hasn’t come yet.
Actual Raw Steel Prices
US HRC futures contract 3 month price fell 11% from $476 per short ton to $422/st. US shredded scrap ended at $214 a metric ton, down 12% from $242/mt. China slab prices rose 7% to 306.68 CNY/mt from 265.68 CNY/mt.