NEW YORK The flat-rolled
steel import market continued to drag its feet this past week
as would-be buyers showed little interest in foreign material
in a declining domestic market.
"Business has been really slow.
Were booking a little bit on the West Coast, but buyers
are unwilling to buy (foreign) when the domestics are near or
at the bottom," one trader said. "Its been
Domestic flat-rolled prices have
fallen steadily in recent weeks as many customers continue to
buy on an as-needed basis as they await a pricing floor. As a
result, traders have reported little interest and even fewer
sales for foreign steel now available for October delivery.
"The last three months have been
slow for sheet (imports). It hasnt tanked, but its
not getting any better," the trader said.
As a result, import offers have
fallen across the board, traders said, although few actual
sales have been transacted.
Hot-rolled coil was offered at
the Port of Houston for $610 to $620 per short ton ($30.50 to
$31 per hundredweight) this past week, down from early June
offers of $620 to $650 per ton ($31 to $32.50 per cwt). This
compares with domestic prices of about $600 per ton ($30 per
Cold-rolled sheet was sold at
$700 to $710 per ton ($35 to $35.50 per cwt) to the Port of
Houston this past week, down from offers of $730 to $750 per
ton ($36.50 to $37.50 per cwt) in early June, while domestic
cold-rolled prices were at $710 per ton.
Plate prices have also lost
ground. Medium-plate import prices dropped to $760 to $780 per
ton ($38 to $39 per cwt) at the Port of Houston this past week
vs. offers of $820 to $850 per ton ($41 to $42.50 per cwt) in
early June. Those import prices are still cheaper than domestic
prices of about $860 per ton ($43 per cwt), but that
doesnt necessarily mean buyers are willing to take a
"Plate is falling apart, too. On
a relative basis, prices have come down a great deal. Its
no longer described as a strong market," a second trader said.
"Im not drawing any interest on plate. There are no
An influx of plate hit shores
earlier this quarter, contributing to the domestic oversupply
and related pricing drop, sources said. In May, some 106,782
tonnes of cut-to-length plate entered the country, led by gains
from South Korea, Turkey and Brazil, according to U.S. Census
Bureau data (see related story, page 1).
"Theres too much plate
right now. Demand is better for plate, generally, because of
the oil and transportation business. But its not as big
as the hot-rolled (market) and way too much product came in
(during May)," a third trader said.
A number of steel traders and
industry sources said they expect a near-term pricing bottom,
which could mean an upswing in the third quarter.
"Were beginning to see
some activity on some products. Some folks recognize that we
may be at the bottom, and it could be a good opportunity to
lock in some numbers," a fourth trader said.
But others arent holding
"Theres so much
uncertainty out there. We hope itll get better, but you
know, the U.S. economy isnt growing as fast as it should
and its actually slowing," the third trader said. "Based
on historical facts, the third quarter should be better with
more buying activity. But we still have too much production