As of mid-February, the direction of steel prices in the near term was almost as big a mystery as prices in the future. (For companies looking for a way to get a better handle on possible steel price increases or minimizing risk in their steel supply chain, see the sidebar What Does the Future Say About Steel Prices?). Multiple mills announced a $40/ton hike in the price of flat-rolled steel products in January, but weeks later it remained unclear if the increase would have much effect on the spot market. Just because mills announce an increase does not mean they will collect it. Much depends on the support the increase gets from steel distributors and ultimately what the market is willing to bear given the current demand. As of Feb. 12, the Price Momentum Indicator from Steel Market Update (SMU) was set at “neutral” on flat-rolled steel, as the price direction was unclear. (All prices below are FOB the mill, east of the Rockies.) The price of hot-rolled steel averaged $680/ton ($34/cwt), with lead times of two to five weeks. Cold-rolled steel was selling at an average price of $810/ton ($40.50/cwt), with lead times of four to eight weeks. The benchmark price for galvanized 0.06...