Upside Risk for Steel Prices: We Say, ‘So What?’

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Source: Adobe Stock/ sean824

In early October I received a phone call from a well-known consultant/advisor within the domestic steel industry. He wanted to know if we were urging our readers to begin to hedge steel (meaning immediately hedge, as opposed to creating a hedging program).

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My gut reaction to the question was to dodge it because I wanted to understand why he asked it. Our conversation went along the lines of this:

Him: Hi, Lisa. I heard you speak at the recent Steel Market Update event. I was just wondering if you were urging your readers to hedge steel.

lisa reisman

MetalMiner Executive Editor Lisa Reisman

Me: Why do you ask?

Him: I think there is a lot more steel price upside risk than downside risk.

Me: I don’t disagree with you, in that prices are on the low end of the range relatively speaking, but in answer to your question, no, we are not telling our readers to hedge right now.

Him: Why not?

Me: Because we don’t see signs of a market bottom. Prices would have to stop falling and begin rising, crossing certain levels before we’d suggest companies hedge.

Him: So you don’t see upside risk?

Me: We don’t try and time the absolute lowest point of the market and then lock-in. We try to identify when the trend has shifted (from bear to bull) and take cover, then buy forward or hedge. Until we see evidence of a trend shift — and the market still looks negative to us —we don’t pay much attention to upside/downside risk, per se. It’s not relative in driving industrial buying behavior.

Source: Adobe Stock/Yury Zap

Source: Adobe Stock/Yury Zap

Is This Analyst Wrong?

That’s probably somewhat of an irrelevant question. He can be both right and wrong. Right in that, yes, there is likely more upside risk (e.g. steel can likely go a lot higher vs. a lot lower) but from an industrial metal buying perspective — I give it the big SO WHAT?

So what if steel has bigger upside risk? Do we care? If the tree fell in the forest and nobody was there to see it fall, did it fall?

The point: we only care about that which will make us change our buying behavior.

And the notion of “upside risk” just doesn’t do it for me, unless, of course, we see evidence of a market shift occurring.

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The evidence suggests we remain firmly in our bear market.

Check out our latest MMI report here.

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The Takeaway

We’re not in the business of predicting the rock bottom point to “beat the market.”

However, we are in the business of delivering metal market procurement insight. Here are a few pieces we’ve written over the years on the subject of “timing the market:”

When Should I Buy My Steel?

The Role of Price Forecast Modeling Tools

Metal Decision Trees: Sourcing Strategies and Risk Mitigation Methods Part 2

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