Domestic steel momentum seems appears to have finally started to slow down.
So far this month, hot-rolled coil, cold-rolled coil, hot-dip galvanized and plate prices have begun to trade sideways.
The slower pace of the increases should come as no surprise, as domestic steel prices have skyrocketed for the past five months. Also, the trade tensions around steel tariffs weakened a bit as a result of the one-month extension for the exempted countries (Canada, Mexico and the E.U.).
Raw Steel Production
According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), domestic year-to-date raw steel production increased by 1.7% from the same period last year.
Current capability utilization stands at 75.5%, while capacity utilization in 2017 ran at 74.3%.
Tracking the spread between domestic HRC and CRC prices closely gives a sense of how prices could move in one direction or another.
HRC and CRC prices trade in the same direction, despite the price differential ($100-$200/st). The spread has returned to historical levels, and currently stands at $116/st. The spread fell from 2016 highs over $200/st.
Chinese steel prices have shown a slight recovery this month.
Historically speaking, April and May sees higher demand in China. Therefore, steel prices tend to increase, driven by this stronger demand.
Meanwhile, investigations around Chinese steel continue in the U.S. The U.S. International Trade Commission recently made a preliminary finding that U.S. producers were harmed by imports of steel automotive wheels from China. The investigation will determine if certain Chinese steel wheels were dumped in the U.S.
What This Means for Industrial Buyers
Since steel prices remain high, buying organizations may want to closely follow price movements to decide when to commit to mid- and long-term purchases. The latest upward movements in Chinese steel prices may also add some support to domestic steel prices.
Buying organizations looking for more clarity on when to buy and how much to buy may want to take a free trial now to our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook.