One of the more valuable benefits of membership in ASA’s Industrial Piping Division is the quarterly commodity reports compiled by members of the IPD Executive Council. Based on extensive research and feedback from customers, suppliers and other sources, the IPD Commodity Reports examine different PVF sectors in extensive detail. Those details are available only to the members, but we can share with you the following capsule summaries.

Carbon Steel Pipe - Overall demand for domestic pipe products in the energy sector continued to increase through the first half of this year compared to the last two years, while the standard industrial pipe markets remained weak to tentative. Most domestic manufacturers reported a 30% gain in energy sector sales compared with Q1 2009, although most standard line pipe distributors did not see a similar gain. Most likely, this was due to increased exports owing to favorable exchange rates combined with increased demand in the energy sector, especially shale drilling for natural gas. Pricing increased more than 14% for domestic pipe products this year, while imported standard line pipe ERW prices increased by as much as 40%, with most offers topping $1,000 a ton as of the end of the first quarter.

Carbon Forged Steel Fittings & Unions - So far this year, there has been improvement in demand but no indication or support for a further uptick in the third quarter.

Carbon Steel Weld Fittings & Flanges -  Mill prices so far this year have held without any significant changes for distributors in the carbon steel flange and fittings market. However, at mill level, that hasn’t been the case. Mills over the last several months have been incurring hefty price increases of raw materials but have been timid to pull the trigger on an increase especially in a U.S. marketplace that is still relatively flat.

Carbon Welded & Seamless Pipe Nipples -  Welded pipe nipple increases in the second quarter appear to be sticking and spreading among competitors.

Copper Tube & Fittings -  Unprecedented price volatility has been seen in commodities over the last few years with copper particularly subject to violent swings.

Evaluating the conditions that are driving the direction of copper’s price up or down in the 2nd quarter of 2010 has recently become more complex with the economic events now unfolding in China, Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

Stainless Steel Pipe, Fittings & Flanges -  Nickel and therefore stainless prices have gyrated wildly, though it’s interesting to note that prices as of the end of April were about the same as they were at the same time two years earlier. That’s when the market suddenly began enjoying improved demand conditions. By the end of April, nickel was 2010’s best performer among all commodities as the rapidly rising price levels - nearly 15% in April alone and 60% since early February - were supported by decreasing exchange stocks and increasing global production levels of austenitic stainless steels, indicating that soaring material prices were not mainly driven by technical buying.

Performance summaries and outlooks for grooved and malleable iron fittings, valves and plastics are additionally included in the 1Q (February) and 3Q (August) reports. For more information about IPD, visit http://www.asa.net/Membership/SpecialInterestGroups/IndustrialPipingDivision, or e-mail Executive Director Chris Murin at cmurin@asa.net.

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