U.S. manufacturing activity has fallen in the past few months, pointing to a loss of momentum in the economy. Industry economists are blaming the frigid temperatures for the economic slowdown and expect the market to rebound in the coming months.

Aluminum – Aluminum prices continue to increase, but the market has been struggling with demand and overproduction. Recent announcements show both favorable and unfavorable news in the market. Reliance Steel & Aluminum reported increased sales in the last quarter of 2013, but reduced profits. Ford Motor Company announced that they will use more Aluminum in the F150 truck to improve fuel efficiency. General Motors Co. is catching up as the company is working towards a largely aluminum-bodied pickup truck by late 2018, under pressure from federal fuel efficiency standards.

Cold Rolled –Cold Rolled prices strengthened slightly in February. These price increases may not be a long-term scenario, but they are currently being accepted by the market. Scrap prices (which are loosely tied to steel pricing) are dropping, and with the increased volume of cheaper imported material, it is doubtful that any price increase will be long- term.

Hot Rolled – Hot Rolled prices increased last month.  However, scrap prices continue to fall (which is loosely tied to steel pricing) and offshore mill prices continue to hamper the domestic market. Hot Rolled Coil prices also fell last month, and lower prices are available from Mexico. In Hot Rolled Plate, the domestic market saw a small price increase this month, and prices are now expected to remain stable.  It is also expected that these increases will continue to drive buyers overseas.  In the Hot Rolled Tube market, Atlas Steel lowered prices this past month, but also announced they will be increasing prices again. Now, however, it is believed this increase may not take effect.

Stainless – Prices have remained relatively flat since January as domestic and International Stainless Steel markets are largely stable. However, nickel prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) continue to gain strength, and the Stainless Steel mills ferronickel prices have moved up. This does increase the chances of price increases based on the rising production costs. Market pundits are waiting for April, in the expectation of price hikes and increased demand.

 

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