NEW YORK Strength in the
long steel products import market seems to have carried beyond
the first few months of the year, with traders and buyers
saying that attractive foreign prices have allowed for ongoing
deals even in a fragile marketplace.
"Business is OK, but it
isnt gangbusters," one trader said. "Buyers are kind of
going hand to mouth. Were picking up orders, but
were not booking huge vessels. For the most part, people
are doing OK. This year has definitely been better than
Imports of reinforcing bar
(rebar) and wire rod historically see stronger volumes at the
start of the year due to expected price hikes in the first
quarter on scrap shortages, with volumes tapering off into the
summer. But this year seems to have bucked that trend, sources
said, with buyers continuing to make purchases for shipment
through the summer.
Imports of rebar and rod have
been fairly steady in recent weeks on the back of higher U.S.
prices, sources said. A number of domestic mills recently hiked
rod by $35 to $40 per ton and rebar by $25 per ton, although
they have since eased off the rebar hike by retracting the
increase by some $10 per ton (
amm.com, April 11).
Still, as domestic mills push
for higher prices it seems to have created an opening for
foreign material, traders said.
"There was a shot in the arm
(for foreign product) when the (domestic) mills raised prices
in March," another trader said. "That really helped boost
Rebar imports were booked for
June-July arrival at between $580 and $600 per ton ($29 to $30
per hundredweight) c.i.f. Port of Houston this past week,
sources said, compared with domestic prices around $680 per ton
($34 per cwt). Sources also said that material from Turkey
continues to be attractive.
"The spread between imported and
domestic is better than what it was last year," a rebar
distributor said. "Weve seen a lot less Mexican bar
lately but a lot more Turkish. When the spread is between $20
and $40 (per ton), you get a lot of people who dont want
to gamble. When that number goes over $40like it is right
nowpeople will buy."
Some 112,070 tonnes of rebar
were set to arrive on U.S. shores in March, according to import
license application data from the Commerce Departments
Import Administration, up 50.3 percent from 74,584 tonnes the
previous month and 14 percent higher than 98,276 tonnes in
Rebar, which traditionally feeds
into the construction market, has seen steady and stable
growth. Nucor Corp. president and chief executive officer John
Ferriola said the Charlotte, N.C.-based steelmaker anticipates
a slightly better nonresidential construction environment in
2013 on the back of stronger housing starts (
amm.com, April 18).
Wire rod imports also have seen
continued strength, with players reporting current bookings for
July-August arrival at $575 to $590 per ton ($28.75 to $29.50
per cwt) c.i.f. Port of Houston compared with domestic prices
around $690 per ton ($34.50 per cwt).
"For us, business has been
steady. There is plenty of (foreign) rod out there and we
dont have any issues with regards to getting steel," a
wire rod buyer said. "Weve just booked steel for August
and September ... and we found the offers to be competitively
Some 54,158 tonnes of wire rod
were poised to arrive in March, flat with imports in February.
Market participants have said, though, that much of the Chinese
rod that has arrived in the United States was actually listed
as hot-rolled bar, which totaled 40,908 tonnes in
Marchnearly double Chinas February figure of 20,786
"Business levels have been
relatively stable," the first trader said. "Chinese material
looks to be coming in at a steady pace."
But despite continued stability
and strength in the market, traders said the outlook remains
"The good news is that there is
demand. Were selling," a third trader said. "The bad news
is that there are too many players in the market and margins