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West Coast steel tube prices holding

Keywords: Tags  steel structural tubing, hollow structural sections, A500, Grade B, South Korea, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Structural steel tubing prices on the West Coast weathered a weak December market, with both buyers and mills reporting steady tags in the first week of the new year following a fourth-quarter price boost.

Everyday prices for core sizes of A500 Grade B hollow structural sections (HSS) are reportedly holding in a nominal range of $48 to $49 per hundredweight ($960 to $980 per ton) in the Los Angeles market, representing at least a portion of the $2-per-cwt ($40-per-ton) increase announced by West Coast mills that was due to take place in mid-November (, Nov. 20).

However, purchases by some large service centers for multiple truckloads of about 20 tons each are being transacted at about 50 cents to $1 per cwt ($10 to $20 per ton) below that range, according to market sources, noting that on larger railcar orders of about 90 tons each, some Midwest tubing producers were willing to go even lower.

"If you’ve got the tonnage requirement and can wait for a shipment (from the Midwest), then you can get it cheaper" than the local price, said a market source. "But the pricing trend is nevertheless upward."

This generally higher level of prices compared to November has held despite December’s doldrums, when business ground to a standstill for some. Some mills and service centers reported that quoting this week has since picked up slightly, however, as apartment construction and some commercial projects appear to be getting off the ground.

Pricing from South Korea remained substantially below domestic levels, with offers as low as $40 to $41 per cwt ($800 to $820 per ton) for January shipment. But those prices represented primarily the most common square sizes and wall thicknesses, and a number of domestic buyers said they aren’t willing to gamble on imports until they have a clearer picture of first-quarter demand.

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