Defiant Metals Industry Mocks Recession Calls at Top Gatherings

If a US recession is looming, no one told the smiling well-suited women and men drinking top-shelf liquor at Miami’s rooftop pools and mingling along Tampa’s bayside terraces during two top metals industry events.

Florida became home to two of the largest US industry conferences over a two-week period, where hundreds converged to discuss the outlook for steel and aluminum demand. The general mood was uniform: Don’t expect record growth witnessed the last couple years, but know that demand is normalizing to pre-pandemic levels.

At least two dozen people representing raw metals producers, service centers, traders, buyers, bankers, truckers, shippers and barge operators interviewed sounded a tone of relief that order activity and backlogs are solid. The upbeat outlook follows a brutal end to 2022, when every major industrial metal declined on worries that rising interest rates and slowing consumption were hurtling economies toward recession.

Participants at both events avoided saying the word “recession” and instead repeatedly referred to “the R-word” in the middle of private discussions about a potential economic downturn.

This year “could be a return to a more boring environment,” Timna Tanners, a steel and aluminum analyst at Wolfe Research, said at the Tampa Steel Conference this past week. “It’s been wild pricing, and we don’t expect any more volatile moves.”