NEW YORK Chinese
cold-rolled sheet prices into the United States have started to
pull back after a run up in the weeks leading up to the
countrys Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, but
traders say the flat-rolled product is still a hard sell into
the U.S. market due to a narrow price spread between domestic
and foreign material.
"China is coming back down the
hill again pricewise, but no one is making a big bet on imports
right now," one steel trader said. "The prices arent as
low as the September/October period ... and even though
theyve come down from where they were (before the Lunar
New Year), theyre nowhere near where they were back in
A second trader confirmed the
lower offer prices, but agreed they werent low enough to
encourage would-be buyers to take a risk on imported material
with longer lead times.
"The Chinese went down last
week," said the second trader, citing a $15- to $20-per-tonne
decrease. "People are still looking at buying (only) what they
need. The fact is that with the long lead times ... its a
problem. Its going to be a gamble for July arrival."
Market sources said that Chinese
offer prices for cold-rolled sheet last August and September
became so competitive that material was sold at a discount to
domestic hot-rolled sheet (
amm.com, Sept. 5), encouraging large-volume buys
from U.S. consumers. But that buying window has since closed,
sources confirmed, with the majority of the low-priced
cold-rolled sheet ordered in the fall having already arrived at
Chinese prices saw a run up in
January and early February ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday,
sources said, but at least one major Chinese mill has since
decreased offer prices to the U.S. market on the back of
lackluster demand, low bookings and softer U.S. prices.
Chinese cold-rolled sheet for
April to May shipment and June to July delivery into East and
Gulf coast ports is now priced around $720 per ton ($36 per
hundredweight) f.o.b. port, sources said this week. Domestic
cold-rolled sheet prices were still reported last week at
around $710 to $720 per ton ($35.50 to $36 per cwt) in the
Northeast and Midwest, however, making Chinese imports into
those regions difficult.
"I dont remember the last
time that cold-rolled was sold in such low volumes into those
(East and Gulf coast) regions," said a third trader. "Right
now, things are a little upside down. The U.S. market is the
cheapest market in the world."
But if a portion of the recent
$50-per-ton ($2.50-per-cwt) domestic price hike on flat-rolled
sheet products sticks, foreign cold-rolled sheet may once again
begin to look more attractive, sources said (
amm.com, March 4).
Meanwhile, West Coast deals
continue to be more attractive due to shorter lead times,
About 29,000 tonnes of Chinese
cold-rolled was set to hit U.S. shores last month, according to
data from the Commerce Departments Import Administration,
double the 13,561 tonnes of Chinese cold-rolled imported in the
same month last year and significantly above 9,773 tonnes in
the first month of this year.