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Steel Price Forecast and Steel Market Outlook

Prices soften on weaker steel demand outlook

Steel prices essentially collapsed in May through early July. The Russian invasion of Ukraine caused prices to rise by $500 per ton in Europe and the United States, but they were already back down by $600 or more by mid-July. Another $200–250 per ton is expected for coil; the question is whether the rapid collapse continues, meaning steel prices fall fast and reach a bottom by the end of 2022, or whether the remaining decline stretches into 2023. We are adopting the second scenario, as prices consolidate when electricity and natural gas shortages restrain steel production. Risk, however, is dominant to the downside. In fact, the only strong upside risk through the end of 2022 is energy shortages become so severe that steel production is cut severely.

Steel supply fears are largely gone. The almost immediate recovery in Russian exports of ore, scrap, and semifinished means that steel production disruption has not been significant in Europe or North America. Almost the only upside risk to steel prices is an embargo of Russian steel and raw materials. However, this appears unlikely as all political effort has targeted petroleum.

Bottom line: Steel prices are plummeting although still above their long-term average. More declines will come so delay locking as long as possible. Beware steel production cuts if electricity is rationed.

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Steel Price Trending for Hot-Rolled Coil, Iron Ore and Scrap

Supply

  • World crude steel production has declined across all regions over the first five months of the year, with India a notable exception.
  • Steel production declined 4% y/y over the first five months of 2022 in Europe and is likely to continue to soften over the remainder of the year as demand weakens and energy costs soar.
  • Steel production in the United States declined 2% y/y through May, largely reflecting production cuts at sheet mills amid weak demand from the automotive sectors

Demand

  • Key steel consuming markets are facing increasing headwinds over the second half of the year, especially in mainland China, which accounts for more than 50% of global steel consumption.
  • The near-term steel demand outlook has also softened considerably in Europe as energy prices soar and shortages loom.
  • In the United States, inflation and interest rate increases continue to surprise on the upside, weighing on steel demand expectations for the second half of the year and 2023.

Experts

Laura Hodges

Laura is responsible for the management and operations of the Pricing and Purchasing Research team. Laura has managed several projects on global cost analysis, including projects in Asia and South America, where the objective was to recommend the most cost-effective and efficient action in the procurement of key materials and services. She has spoken extensively on the topic of procurement pricing strategies and the global cost environment, including a presentation at the Institute of Supply Management titled, "Has China Lost Its Low-Cost Edge?" She has made presentations on the "Economic Risks to Consider Before Bidding Your Next Contract," and "Understanding and Estimating the Skilled Labor Shortage," at a conference of the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering.Laura holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the George Washington University, U.S., and a Master of Arts in Health and Labor Economics from Duke University, U.S. She also earned an MBA from Rutgers University, Beijing, China.

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John Anton

John has expertise in the ferrous metals industry, he is responsible for evaluating the outlook for steel. He also specializes in forecasting commodities and works closely with the Automotive, Construction, Energy and Economics teams at S&P Global Market Intelligence. Steel demand is linked to outlooks from these key sectors. In turn, the profitability of these sectors can rise or fall depending on the price and availability of steel.Prior to joining IHS Markit (now part of S&P Global) in 1995, he was in the private practice of law as well as an economist and statistician for the United States Department of Labor in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).John received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Florida State University, US, and a Juris Doctor from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary, US.

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John Mothersole

As director of research, John sets and executes research priorities to identify potential supply chain risks and opportunities. His other duties include providing inflation analysis for the US Economic Forecasting Service, World Industry Service and the metal price forecasts within the Global Link Model at S&P Global Market Intelligence. He is directly responsible for nonferrous metal forecasts. He has more than 30 years of experience in price analysis and price forecasting.A member of the National Association of Business Economists (NABE), John holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Economics, both from the University of Maryland, US.

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