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Pipe demand flat despite price gains

Keywords: Tags  pipe and tube, tubing prices, hollow structural sections, HSS, oil country tubular goods, OCTG, X42, J55 Thorsten Schier

NEW YORK — Some pipe and tube prices registered an uptick in March due to increasing raw material costs, although demand has yet to improve, market sources told AMM.

"It’s still pretty flat. There’s nothing in the immediate future (to spur a pickup), but we are expecting the year to improve every month as things go on," a Mid-Atlantic pipe and tube distributor said.

Hollow structural sections (HSS) prices have increased to $920 per ton ($46 per hundredweight) from $910 per ton ($45.50 per cwt) previously, with mills capturing at least part of a recent $30-per-ton ($1.50-per-cwt) hike.

However, a small number of sources still reported prices were well below AMM’s $920-per-ton benchmark, possibly the result of a handful of mills not joining the increase.

Conditions in the pipe market are "fair," most participants told AMM, although price forecasts were divided, with just over half of respondents expecting price decreases and the remainder seeing rising tags.

On the energy tubulars front, some prices for imported oil country tubular goods (OCTG) and line pipe picked up in March on a recent increase in Chinese coil prices, although the impetus from that rise is already said to be fading.

"Most of the (foreign) mills tried to raise the prices as coil prices went up," one trader said.

Imported X42 line pipe has climbed to $865 per ton ($43.25 per cwt) from $850 per ton ($42.50 per cwt) previously, while J55 casing rose to $880 per ton ($44 per cwt) from $870 per ton ($43.50 per cwt) as a result, although sources said initial increases had been larger.

Demand in the sector has been steady, with a recent rise in natural gas prices expected to spur a pickup.

"I’d say demand’s about where it’s been. It’s not going crazy, but there’s good activity right now. The gas prices seem to be moving, so if they continue to stay up I wouldn’t be surprised to see that activity pick up," a distributor in the South said.

Market speculation about a trade case against South Korean energy tubular product producers persisted, with a second trader saying he was no longer convinced a case would be filed.

"If it doesn’t come this week, it’s not coming," he said. "If they file this week, they get the fourth-quarter numbers and the first-quarter numbers in. They don’t want the third-quarter numbers coming in because their order books are pretty strong on the seamless side."

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