NEW YORK The steel wire
rod and reinforcing bar import sector has been sluggish
recently as U.S. mill pricing remains competitive and buyers
cautiously eye year-end dynamics.
"Usually around this time of
year, people place orders for first-quarter arrival. Some have
already booked, but its been going very slowly," one
steel trader said. "Buyers dont want to speculate and
theyre trying to be conservative. Theyre even
willing to pay a larger than normal premium on domestic product
if that minimizes their risk."
A second trader agreed. "There
isnt a big rush for the first quarter yet," he said. "The
domestics are still concerned about filling these last two
The slowdown in import activity
comes at a time of sluggish domestic market conditions and
"September was a decent month
and October was OK. But, were always looking for
business," one buyer said.
Of those limited deals being
done, wire rod imports into the Port of Houston is now selling
at $585 to $600 per ton per ton, sources said, compared with
domestic prices of about $670 per ton f.o.b. Midwest mill,
while reinforcing bar to the Port of Houston is at $550 to $600
per ton vs. domestic prices of about $650 per ton f.o.b.
But some speculate domestic
mills might soon raise prices after an increase in
AMMs consumer buying price for shredded
automotive scrap in the Chicago market (
amm.com, Nov. 7).
A potential domestic price
announcement could tip the scales in favor of importers,
"There seems to be a lot of
expectation on an increase. I sure hope it happens," a third
trader said. "Theres still product coming in, and
Im hoping that if domestic mills increase, itll
help me sell."
The buyer agreed that a price
hike could be coming, noting that he was still buying on an
as-needed basis as he awaited more clarity.
"Im looking at the
landscape now and figuring out what were going to do
next. The mills look like theyre rattling their sabers
for an increase come the first of December. That will probably
happen," the buyer said. "The domestic mills arent super
full. Theyre hoping to be more full."
But while imports have slowed
down, the reduction in volumes hasnt yet been reflected
in Commerce data, which shows arrivals of material ordered
about three months prior.
Rebar imports for October looked
on course to rise to 70,393 tonnes as material arriving from
Turkey jumped to 45,291 tonnes, according to license
application data from the Commerce Departments Import
Administration. Thats the highest figure since April, and
is up from imports of 41,956 tonnes in September, when Turkish
arrivals totaled 8,529 tonnes.
Some 78,604 tonnes of wire rod
were licensed to hit U.S. shores in October, down from 80,111
tonnes in September.