Cliffs maintains a positive outlook for the second quarter

US steelmakers Nucor and Cleveland-Cliffs reported a decline in demand for steel from some key customers. This led to a drop in sales and profits in the first quarter.

In the first quarter of 2024, Cleveland-Cliffs reduced its sales of steel products by 3.5% compared to the same period in 2023 and by 2.4% q/q – to 3.9 million short tons. The average selling price of steel in January-March was $1,175 per tonne, up 4.2% y/y and 7.5% by the fourth quarter of 2023.

According to Lorenko Gonsalves, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Cliffs, the resilience of automotive production in the US helped the company to compensate for the temporary «buyers’ strike» by distributors. Higher demand for automotive products and higher average selling prices helped the company reduce its quarterly loss and maintain a positive outlook for the second quarter.

According to Gonsalves, Cleveland-Cliffs expects its largest end market, the automotive sector, to remain strong in April-June. In addition, orders from service centers have started to increase, and spot prices are rising.

Cliffs maintained its 2024 steel supply forecast of 16.5 million short tons. The company also expects a decrease in the unit cost of steel by about $30 year-on-year.

Nucor shipped 6.22 million short tons of steel to external customers in the first quarter, down 3% y/y but up 5% from the fourth quarter.

The company expects that in the second quarter of this year, its steel products segment’s profit will decline quarter-on-quarter. The most significant factor will be a decline in steel mill segment profit, primarily due to lower average selling prices, partially offset by a slight increase in tonnage.

At the same time, Nucor expects second-quarter earnings in the commodities segment to be higher compared to January-March due to higher profitability of direct reduced iron production facilities and scrap processing operations.

In 2023, US steelmakers reduced steel imports (rolled and semi-finished products) by 8.7% compared to 2022, to 28.15 million tons.