NEW YORK The flat-rolled
steel import market is seeing a slight pickup in activity,
aided by rising domestic prices and first-quarter contract
orders, market participants told AMM.
"Business seems to be slowly on
the rebound. Weve definitely seen a slight uptick in
orders," one trader said. "Were seeing some interest on
certain productslike cold-rolled and galvanized, and even
some platebut things are moving slowly, and there are
still people who are very, very nervous."
A number of domestic mills have
raised prices by $40 and $50 per ton in recent weeks in
response to increased raw material costs (
amm.com, Nov. 7). With higher domestic prices, the
overall pricing benchmarks have moved up, traders said.
"The really ugly
dealswhere you could get some super-discounted material
at the domestic levelare now gone," a second trader said.
"But if you never got that deal, chances are your prices
havent changed all that much. The import pricing has been
sort of the same now for months. Whats changed is that
the domestic mills have gone up and down some $100, and you
have wild gyrations overlaid by steady import pricingso,
sometimes business is good and sometimes its bad."
Transactions for imported
hot-rolled coil into the Port of Houston have been rare and
stand at around $580 to $600 per ton, sources said, compared
with domestic prices of about $630 per ton f.o.b. Midwest mill.
Transactions for imported cold-rolled coil remain at $660 to
$680 per ton compared with domestic prices of $730 per ton
f.o.b. Midwest mill.
Chinese cold-rolled, which had
previously gained traction in the U.S. market, has been more
difficult to sell as a result of increased Chinese prices and
falling U.S. tags just prior to the recent increases (
amm.com, Nov. 8).
"Business isnt great. It
isnt awful. Its just kind of plodding along.
Theres no real excitement to it right now and no one is
hedging the market by buying lots of imports," the second
Medium plate transactions are
between $700 and $720 per ton compared with domestic carbon
steel plate prices of $680 per ton f.o.b. mill Midwest.
Buyers who are still concerned
about economic direction following the presidential election
said that buying activity hasnt picked up since the
beginning of November.
"Anyone who said the elections
were going to change their buying patternswell, they
basically were dreaming a fairy tale," one buyer said.
But despite the rhetoric of
domestic overcapacity and long lead times for foreign product,
others were certain that the economy would get better in the
"Everyone is so afraid to buy
anything. Add to that there arent that many countries
that have interest in shipping here anymore," a third trader
said. "But overall, the economy is continuing to heal and will
get better. I think steel demand will also get better, which
will be good for traders if the mills would only keep
production down and prices up."