LOS ANGELES Flat-rolled
steel price increases on the West Coast this month are being
greeted cautiously by buyers, who say there is too much
uncertainty at this point to jump on board.
While there has been some
limited upward movement in transaction prices, with hot-rolled
sheet up $8 to $10 per ton from some buyers previous
purchases, most market sources arent losing any sleep
over the possibility that prices will take off anytime
"The lead times are too short,"
said one buyer, who, like some others, noted that hot-rolled
sheet from east of the Rockies originally quoted for production
about four weeks out is instead being shipped up to two weeks
earlier in some cases.
Fontana, Calif.-based California
Steel Industries Inc. (CSI) told customers it would raise the
price of hot-rolled sheet products by $30 per ton and
cold-rolled and galvanized sheet by $50 per ton, effective Feb.
amm.com, March 1). CSIs chief rival,
Pittsburg, Calif.-based USS-Posco Industries Inc., said it
would hike hot-rolled pickled and oiled sheet by $30 ton and
cold-rolled and galvanized sheet by $50 per ton effective March
1, according to industry sources.
Service center sources said
theyre having difficulty raising their own prices in line
with the mills recent announcements. Moreover,
indications are that some traders who significantly boosted
their prices now appear to be having second thoughts.
Hot-rolled coil prices delivered
into the West Coast market are estimated at $660 to $680 per
ton ($33 to $34 per hundredweight) to medium- and large-size
While some larger end-users are
bringing in imported hot-rolled product ordered previously at
as low as $600 to $620 per ton ($30 to $31 per cwt) for
second-quarter arrival, South Korean hot-rolled steel was
initially quoted for arrival in late May or early June at $700
per ton ($35 per cwt) but more recently has come down to about
$680 to $685 per ton ($34 to $34.25 per cwt).
"Thats not going to get it
done," one of several buyers said of the Korean offers, adding
that overseas mills must lower their quotes even more to make
it worthwhile to order for arrival in the late second quarter
and early third quarter, when they fear prices might once again
Cold-rolled steel from China,
which last year sank to a base price as low as $640 per ton
($32 per cwt), was initially quoted for June arrival at $720 to
$740 per ton ($36 to $37 per cwt), but more recently has been
reported at $700 per ton ($35 per cwt). However, even the lower
price represents just a $60- to $80-per-ton discount to
domestic cold-rolled product, which is estimated at $760 to
$780 per ton ($38 to $39 per cwt), and compares unfavorably
with a discount that was as high as $140 per ton at one point