In the May 2023 market report from Ryerson we dig into steel pricing trends around the globe, futures data, and stainless imports.

Across the three major steel-producing regions of the world—the U.S., Europe, and China—spot prices for steel appear to be peaking. As of early May, European prices were around $850/ton, compared with around $1,120/ton in the United States.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the three is China. As of early May, steel prices in China were hovering around $535/ton. This downward trend is one that has been developing for the better part of 2023.
Global Steel price 2023
This downward trend in Chinese steel prices coincides with less-than-favorable manufacturing activity in the country. China’s PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) number for April was 49.5, according to Markit. Overall, manufacturing activity in China has not rebounded at the rate some had expected following the end of COVID lockdowns in the country

China accounts for roughly 29% of the world’s manufacturing. Historically this helps to offset any slowdown experienced in other primary manufacturing economies, such as the U.S. and Europe.


What Are Futures Steel Pricing Right Now?

Over the past six months the price of hot-rolled coil in the United States has run up roughly 85% from about $650/ton to just over $1,200/ton. Yet, despite this continued escalation in price, the futures market never wavered in its belief that prices would indeed come back down at some point this year.

In the chart below, future pricing is represented by three lines, orange (current pricing), green (one month ago), and blue (six months ago). To the left you see that the price of steel varied depending on when you bought in, but as we move to the right side of the chart, all three lines converge around the $800/ton mark. This means that despite the run-up in price this year, the futures market remained steady. It is important to note that the data isn’t necessarily suggesting prices will stay at this level into 2024, but rather projections have yet to be made that far in advance.

Futures Steel Pricing May 2023

Could we be starting to see the projected trend become a reality? On May 10, the price of hot-rolled coil was $1,129/ton. While that price is still up just over $400/ton since the start of the year, it is down roughly $74/ton from the previous month. The expectation from some is this downward trajectory could continue.

Whether the price move into the low $800/ton range as the future data is suggesting is anyone’s guess at this point. But at least anecdotally some buyers could be hedging their bets in that direction.

“We have been seeing some customers kicking the tires on steel futures as of late, and that could be a function of things being relatively okay in most end markets right now,” says Nick Webb, Ryerson’s director of risk management, commodity hedging. “By no means is that financial advice to say that the low $800/ton is a good number, but it is a much lower number than we have seen as of late.”


Stainless Steel Imports 2023?


Will we see more stainless imports coming into the country later this year? 

Answer provided by Jim Reed, Ryerson's Director of Supply Chain, West Region

I say the import market has started to level off due to the actions that the domestic producers have taken with the Department of Commerce and the rumors of more actions to come. (see callout box below).

We are not seeing the level of price degradation as other parts of the world have seen. The domestic mills believe the U.S. market should right-size the inventory by Q3.

There have been some pricing challenges on the West Coast due to imports from Asia-Pacific producers. The current lead time from the Asian mills is late July/ early August.

I do not expect an overabundance of imports to arrive early Q3, with the new regulations on the import heat/melt source. We also have seen offers somewhat slow down the past few weeks.


The U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) preliminarily determines that sales of stainless steel sheet and strip in coils (SSSSC) from Taiwan have been made at less than normal value during the period of review (POR), July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022. Additionally, Commerce preliminarily determines that four companies for which we initiated a review had no shipments during the POR. Interested parties are invited to comment on these preliminary results.


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