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West Coast steel plate prices gain ground

Keywords: Tags  steel plate, west coast, Evraz, Nucor, SSAB, ArcelorMittal, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Price hikes on commodity steel plate are taking hold on the West Coast, although service center buyers in particular said they have yet to see a corresponding uptick in business.

"The (domestic) mills are sticking to their numbers, but there’s no real increase in demand yet," said a plate distributor, noting that—with the possible exception of consumers in the energy sector—daily transactional business has yet to show an increase.

"Pricing seems to have held, although I don’t see it reflected in demand," another market source said.

On a national basis, domestic steel producers announced price hikes totaling $60 per ton during the first quarter, with a number of sources confirming earlier this month that the increases appear to have largely held, although not in full for all buyers (, April 5).

Delivered domestic prices into the West Coast market of warehouse grades and sizes are now reported in a range of $810 to $850 per ton ($40.50 to $42.50 per cwt), depending on the mill, size of the buyer and specific local market, up from as low as $780 per ton ($39 per cwt) in late 2012 and earlier this year.

The Portland, Ore., plate works of Evraz Inc. North America is the West Coast’s only major regional producer of discrete plate. Other leading suppliers here include Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp., Lisle, Ill.-based SSAB Americas, and Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA, which have to ship from their home markets.

Unlike sheet products, where lead times in many cases are being measured in days and prices are proving difficult to maintain (, April 10), plate mills are quoting up to six weeks for delivery, which has helped support their announced hikes, sources said. The longer lead times are attributed in part to maintenance outages at some mills east of the Rockies.

But at the same time, imports continue to be offered at discounts to domestic plate. Taiwanese material has been reported at $720 to $740 per ton ($36 to $37 per cwt) in a full size range for delivery this summer. Buyers also have seen initial indications that Japan, which before 2012 hadn’t been a factor in West Coast commodity plate for years but which briefly returned to the market at competitive prices last year, may be ready to resume this role for summer deliveries.

Last year’s major import factor, South Korea, is keeping a relatively low profile. Sources said it’s unclear whether this is due to an unconfirmed but widespread report that a large Korean plate maker has been warned by a U.S. producer of a possible trade complaint.

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