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US sheet market searches for spot pricing bottom - 30 May 2012

US spot sheet prices faced significant headwinds this week, as both analysts and market sources expressed negative sentiments regarding the near-term domestic outlook - even as some capacity appears likely to go offline.

Downward pressure continued despite RG Steel's announcement last week it could idle or sell three flats facilities, and the disclosure earlier this month that ThyssenKrupp is open to offers for its mills in Brazil and Alabama.

Based on transactions and offers heard in the market, Platts SBB lowered its assessments of hotrolled and coldrolled coils by $5/short ton week-on-week, to $635-645/s.t for HRC and $735-755/s.t for CRC. Hot-dip galvanized also fell $5 to $795-805/s.t. All prices are ex-works, normalized to a midwest basis.

One southern broker said prevailing spot HRC and CRC prices are "more towards the low end" of Platts SBB's range. He predicted $600/s.t and $700/s.t "will be the next stopping points" for HRC and CRC, respectively.

Two industry analysts released similarly dour predictions yesterday (see related article).

An eastern trader agreed downward pressure will continue, but said HRC prices - which he pegged around $640/s.t - cannot go much lower since "any lower than $640, mills can't make money."

A southern distributor agreed, saying "$640 is probably the number," although there is "discounting going on in the (distribution) marketplace. "Everything has to be a deal now," he said, noting cif Houston import offers are "almost in parity" with domestic spot prices.

One midwest stockist said sub-$640 deals are "out there ... but I am not sure where the bottom is."


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