In case you missed it, the steel industry (or “industry”) is either imploding or exploding, depending on where you’re sitting. I don’t think we’ve been here before.
Since first launching Bryzos we have more Buyers and Sellers registering than ever. Buyers clearly are on the hunt for steel — not even the best price, just straight-up trying to find it. Sellers are listing and quoting harder and faster than ever before to lighten the breadth of their inventory. Both Buyers and Sellers are engaging for various reasons, not the least of which is to come together in a community-like way to get through the supply-starved market. People need steel and they need it now. While Bryzos has a huge selection of Seller listings it’s impossible to meet demand. And of course, we’re not the only ones. So where is all the steel?
The industry, as you well know, is remarkably insular for a trillion-dollar-plus a year business. As Matt Phillips noted in his New York Times piece, “Soaring Prices Herald Boom Time for Steel Makers” in May, “Steel makers have consolidated in the past year, allowing them to exert more control over supply.” And we’re all feeling it. For an industry that touches every facet of our lives, as Jessica Mathews wrote in Forbes this past June, this is more than a little disconcerting.
Listen, it’s great when companies in our industry are some of the most powerful on the planet — assuming they wield that power with compassion and empathy — but this situation is getting a little (a lot?) out of hand. Mills are remaining steady in production as a precaution for what is an uncertain future in terms of demand. The result of supply not rising to meet demand is soaring prices and uncommon supply-chain dynamics. Sellers that could not give steel away a year ago are rationing their steel in fear of not being able to supply their 20% client base, and the looming replacement cost in the event they sell out. Everyone is fearful of being left in the cold with no steel to speak of or being robbed for what little they can get their hands on. And this is looking likely to continue into 2022.
Does this mean we’re in a bubble made of steel, as Matt Egan said on CNN in May? Quite possibly, but shhhhhhhhhh! No one wants to think about that. But we need to. When supply eventually catches up with demand — which it always does — watch out. Market-forced corrections have a way of being very ugly and turning worlds upside-down. Bryzos is a great way to hedge against market volatility for stock purchases and spot-buys as you don’t have to commit to future pricing, and you don’t have to buy a vessel full of steel. If we can correct the course of this crazy inflation without a crash, we will all be better for it.