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West Coast steel plate prices start year flat

Keywords: Tags  steel plate, west coast, evraz, nucor, arcelormittal, SSAB, Posco, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — A late-2012 surge in carbon steel plate prices on the West Coast appears to have stalled in the new year as buyers await clear signs that excess inventories have been worked off and demand is improving.

Most buyers describe pricing at the mill level as flat with late 2012, when tags began to inch up—although not by as much as previously announced mill increases. In any case, that upward movement appears to have topped out, at least temporarily.

Moreover, if there’s any bias in pricing, it appears to be a downward-looking one. While most buyers described their current mill offers as flat, some reported a falloff of perhaps $20 per ton ($1 per hundredweight) compared with the highest price they paid late last year.

"I don’t think we’re going to get that first-quarter pop in pricing" seen in the past few years, one service center buyer said.

Delivered domestic prices for warehouse grades and sizes are estimated to be in a range of $810 to $830 per ton ($40.50 to $41.50 per cwt).

With the exception of the Portland, Ore.-based rolling mill of Evraz Inc. North America, all of the region’s domestic suppliers—Nucor Corp.’s Hertford, S.C., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., mills; ArcelorMittal USA Inc., Chicago; and Lisle, Ill.-based SSAB Americas—are east of the Rockies.

Meanwhile, South Korean plate is being quoted for late-first-quarter arrival at around $740 per ton ($37 per cwt) ex-dock. Posco Ltd., which was selling aggressively earlier in 2012 but was out of the market for part of the fourth quarter, is once again offering material, although at discounts to domestic plate that aren’t as steep as they were during most of 2012, market sources said.

While an influx of imports last year—in large part from Korea—continues to be worked down, there seems to be little consensus on just how much is left.

"There’s still some Korean stuff around," a distributor source said. "It’s good-quality steel, but it hit our market last year all at once, and then demand started to go down."

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