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Taking the Temperature of the SMU Steel Crowd

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Analysts and industry leaders dominated the podium at the Steel Market Update conference in Atlanta last month, but for a short while, SMU chief John Packard turned things over to the attendees. Using the SMU events app, Packard polled the large crowd on a handful of topics.

Most notably, Packard queried his guests on their expectations for the price of hot-rolled coil in 2018. Roughly half the audience anticipated pricing between $600 and $650 per ton in 2018, followed by a third of the crowd pegging the price between $551 and $600. Forecasts calling for pricing below $550 and above $650 were each made by about 10 percent of the participants.

Along those lines, the group was generally optimistic about business conditions in 2018, with about half predicting conditions would be better next year (though only a few anticipated things would be “significantly better”). Less than 10 percent forecast things to get worse, with the remainder projecting conditions similar to 2017.

One of the main topics at the conference was the ongoing Section 232 trade filing, which has seemed to lose steam as the summer has worn on. The respondents reflected that attitude, with three-fifths anticipating no dramatic impact from the outcome and close to 15 percent suggesting nothing at all will come of the case.

Finally, Packard revisited a topic he touched on in 2016 – Donald Trump. A year ago, conference-goers preferred Trump to Hillary Clinton by a 48-22 margin. Support for the president has wavered a little, but not terribly so. Close to 40 percent still support him, and another 10 percent indicate they strongly support him. Fourteen percent of attendees are starting to regret their support, while 5 percent have jumped off the Trump bandwagon completely. About a third said they never supported him to begin with.

It will be interesting to see how the answers to the first three questions match reality in the coming months. And it would be welcome if Packard doesn’t feel compelled to ask the final question again next year.