State of Steel - December 2020

Pricing, Lead Times, and Availability

The CRU index continues to rise and overall, we have seen a 49% increase in the steel index since the first week of August. More specifically, Nucor Tubular and Atlas Tube have raised prices on HSS, pipe, mechanical, and piling products by $75/ton in November and now $200/ton in December. All other structural tubing mills have followed suit. This kicks off the eighth round of price increases since August. The global IODEX iron ore price hit $158/ton last week which is near a 7-year high. This is an increase of 50+% YTD and largely due to demand from China. Flat-rolled steel is currently seeking increases of $850/ton for HR coil and $1,000/ton for CR coil. Steel plate prices have also seen increases in November anywhere from $40 to $50/ton with continued uphill trends moving into December.

Understanding lead times for steel products are important to every participant in the supply chain. Lead times for steel products are as followed:

HR Coil lead times approximately running 10-14 weeks.

Mechanical Tubing is 14-18 weeks given the availability of raw steel coils and mill maintenance shutdowns.

Structural Tubing mill lead times are running approximately 8-10 weeks long at receipt of order.

Dura-Bar Continuous Cast Iron mill lead times are approximately 3-4 weeks. Pricing on all cast iron products is gradually increasing. This can be attributed to higher material surcharges.  

Metal Production

The World Steel Association reported global crude steel production totaled 161.9 million tons in October. China’s production totaled 92.2 million tons in October, which was down 3.6% month over month and up 12.7% year-over-year. US Production of $6.1 million tons in October was down 0.5% month-over-month and down 15.3% year-over-year. In 2020, overall global production is down 2.0% year-over-year. In early May, US capacity utilization was 51.1%. At the start of the November 23rd week, US capacity utilization was 71.5% vs 78.8% last year. This marks a significant improvement for US capacity utilization.  In the week ended November 28, US raw steel production decreased 1.3% week over week to 1.56mt (-14.4% YoY).  US capacity utilization was 70.6% vs 78.8% last year. This marks a significant improvement from the 51.1% capacity utilization low in early May. Year-to-date production of 72.186 million tons is 18.4% lower than last year. ArcelorMittal’s Burn’s Harbor blast furnace D was repaired and is now back online after an explosion in July. US Steel will be restarting its blast furnace #4 at Gary Works on December 8th. Both furnace startups will help get more supply into the marketplace.


Most mills in the southeast and midwest entered the scrap market in December and offered to pay prices anywhere from $70-$90/ton month-over-month to secure scrap. These increases are due to tight supplies, strong finished steel prices, and a booming export market. This $70-$90/ton increase was well above expectations for December but depending on January settlements the two-month move could remain in-line with expectations. Nucor is expecting scrap prices to increase by roughly $100/ton over the next two months.

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