LOS ANGELES Mills are moving to hike beam prices at a time when some are reporting significant discounting, and buyers say that its unclear just which trend will win out.
Nucor-Yamato Steel Co., Blytheville, Ark., and Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp.s beam mill in Berkeley, S.C., have both reduced their beam base prices by $10 per ton and boosted their raw material surcharges by $35 per ton, resulting in a $25-per-ton net increase to Aprils published transaction prices.
The actions come after AMMs consumer buying price for shredded automotive scrap in the Chicago market, a major component of some domestic mills surcharges, rose last week by $35 per ton (amm.com, March 7).
The announced increases would raise the published f.o.b. mill price for core sizes of wide-flange beams from a current $780 per ton ($39 per hundredweight) to $805 per ton ($40.25 per cwt). Market sources were still awaiting April pricing letters from the other major domestic beam producers as of press time.
"If raw materials are really firming up, then the mills will have to push up prices," an Eastern distributor said.
But despite the rising scrap costs, some buyers questioned how successful the announced hikes will be as market participants continue to report discounting by some beam suppliers. Last year, amid widespread discounting, domestic mills moved to adjust beam prices in an effort to make published prices more accurately reflect actual market conditions. By most accounts, they achieved at least some measure of initial success.
However, while published prices have remained unchanged for the past four months, reports of an increasing number of deals began to emerge in the new year. That accelerated into "foreign-fighter" programs said to compete with imports and then even more widespread price cutting, amounting in some cases to discounts of $60 per ton or more off published prices, sources said (amm.com, March 11).
Even buyers in parts of the country that arent seeing any increase in imports, such as the East and Midwest, said that domestic mill discounting is also now part of their own markets.
Meanwhile, the latest beam import application data suggests that South Korea, which has been responsible for most of the indicated rise in imports, may see its influence leveling off.
After fielding permit applications for 5,373 tonnes of wide-flange imports from Korea during the first week of March, the U.S. Department of Commerce received applications representing only 224 additional tonnes in the subsequent five days, bringing the total permitted volume through March 12 to 5,597 tonnes.
If this decline in weekly volumes represents a trend, March imports would fall short of the approximately 22,050 total tons that was due to arrive in February, more than 20,000 tons of which was from Korea.
"The real problem is that theres just not a lot of business," a West Coast distributor said, echoing the reports of his counterparts in other parts of the country who said that domestic beam demand has been disappointing so far this year.