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Last year's steel price momentum in US unlikely in 2019: MetalMiner

Tampa — The price momentum that US-made steel hot-rolled coil had at this time a year ago has dissipated, and it's unlikely to resume sharply anytime soon, according to Lisa Reisman, co-founder and executive editor at MetalMiner.

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"The bull market for steel has run out of strength," Reisman said during a presentation at the 30th Tampa Steel Conference, hosted by Port Tampa Bay. The same is the case for most all industrial metals, she added.

Reisman shared her company's latest US HRC price forecast, seeing it as mostly sideways -- with support at $691/st and resistance at about $708/st. This compares to Tuesday's (February 12) S&P Global Platts daily assessment of $681/st, indicating not much more upside based on Reisman's forecast.

"There's been no sharp movement in price momentum and HRC lead times are still short, increasing somewhat just recently," she added.

The latest Platts HRC lead time assessment of February 6 showed this indicator at 4.4 weeks, up 0.3 week from late January.

Reisman explained that supply/demand fundamentals tend to come into play on a longer basis for steel--and all industrial metals--and she said that MetalMiner looks at three main indicators: strength or weakness of the US dollar, demand from China, and the price of oil.

Commodity prices generally move inversely to a strong dollar, and steel is no exception. "When the dollar falls, commodities go up," she said, adding that despite some recent dollar strength, "it still hasn't broken through and remains somewhat bearish."

China, meanwhile, is "still struggling to support growth," and dealing with tariff and trade issues, Reisman added.

As for the price of oil, which her firm does not forecast, but is a critical component of her metals price forecasting, Reisman sees support (or a bottom) of about $40/b and resistance at $60/b.

-- Joe Innace, joseph.innace@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com