Recently announced price hikes from mills resulted in an increase in steel prices toward the close of 2019. Some buyers, however, wonder if market economics will support those increases. Getty Images After declining for much of 2019, steel prices moved up substantially in the last two months of the year. What will be the trend heading into early 2020? Flat-rolled steel producers raised prices three times during October and November for a total of $110/ton. Likewise, plate producers also announced three increases, raising prices by a total of $130/ton. The announcement of higher prices, however, does not mean the mills will be able to collect them. That depends on what the market will bear and how much support they get from distributors (see Figure 1). But without doubt, the increases have moved the market. Steel prices increased by approximately 20% from late October to mid-December. Steel Market Update (SMU) survey data as of Dec. 10 showed that the benchmark price for hot-rolled steel rose by nearly $100 to an average of $570/ton ($28.50/cwt) FOB mill, east of the Rockies. Cold-rolled and galvanized steels averaged $760/ton ($38.00/cwt), with Galvalume® at $770/ton ($38.50/cwt...