US traders optimistic about 2013 prospects, AIIS says

US steel traders appear fairly optimistic about market conditions in the coming months, with many anticipating an increase in finished flat product imports, but many continue to see oversupply as a major setback to growth.

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Those sentiments were reflected in the American Institute for International Steel’s (AIIS’) December market survey, with all respondents expecting an increase in cold-rolled coil and corrosion-resistant steel imports in the next two months, while 73% expect an increase in hot-rolled coil imports.

All participants said that compared to one to two months’ prior, cold-rolled coil and structural steel imports were priced moderately higher, while 73% said hot-rolled coil was priced moderately higher.

Some buyers, however, told Steel First sister publication AMM that they expect domestic coil prices to slide in the short term, causing potential buyers to think twice about foreign material.

“There’s nothing I can see that’s good in the foreseeable future, as far as I’m concerned. The foreign offers aren’t better than domestic right now, and what they’re working against is the time factor,” one buyer said of long lead times for foreign material. “You cannot justify it.”

Based on orders currently being placed, 94% of survey participants said they expected cut-to-length plate imports to be about the “same” in the next three to five months.

All survey participants said there was a “moderate oversupply” in corrosion-resistant steel, wire rod and merchant bars. When it came to hot-rolled steel supply, 91% said supply was “about right,” while 90% said cold-rolled steel supply was in “moderate oversupply.”

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