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Korea beam imports continue to flow

Keywords: Tags  steel beams, imports, Korea, Frank Haflich, Mexico

LOS ANGELES — South Korea appears on track to maintain its role as the United States’ top foreign source of wide-flange steel beams this month, already sprinting ahead to a comfortable lead in the first 10 days of April.

South Korea accounted for 8,467 tonnes—or 98.6 percent—of all import license applications submitted for this month through April 10 in the main category of wide-flange beams, according to Commerce Department data.

In March, South Korea accounted for about 9,100 tonnes—or 68 percent—of wide-flange import license applications, while in February, it represented about 6,800 tonnes—or 56 percent—of preliminary imports, according to Commerce data. In January, Spain was the largest offshore beam source.

Market sources said that at their highest discounts, South Korean beams were being offered for arrival on the West Coast at just under $800 per ton ($40 per hundredweight) ex-dock. This compares with a current domestic published f.o.b. mill base for core beam sizes of $42 per cwt ($840 per ton). That price does not include shipping, which can add another $3.50 to $5 per cwt, depending on the destination and other factors.

Some market sources cite such aggressive import pricing, presumably to large service center buyers, as one of the reasons for continuing "foreign fighter" discounting by some domestic mills.

Meanwhile, market sources say they have seen some of the first offers from a new source of beams, as well as other long products: Mexico. They estimated initial delivered prices on a limited range of small beams at as low as $36 per cwt to the West Coast. While described by one observer as "extremely low," others think this could represent an introductory price that could go up in the future.

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