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Steel beam discounting spreads

Keywords: Tags  steel beams, beam imports, Commerce, wide-flange beams, steel, scrap, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Discounts on structural steel in the form of "foreign fighter" prices, ostensibly aimed at imports, appear to be picking up in certain markets, especially on the West Coast.

Earlier this month, domestic producers cut published beam prices by $20 per ton to $785 per ton ($39.25 per hundredweight) f.o.b. mill on most core sizes from $805 per ton ($40.25 per cwt) previously (, April 12) following a $22-per-ton cut in AMM’s consumer buying price for shredded automotive scrap in the Chicago market, a key component in some mills’ raw material surcharges.

On the West Coast, however, some beams have been sold in recent weeks in a range of $780 to $800 per ton ($39 to $40 per cwt) delivered, indicating a discount of $60 or more on published prices, in some cases, when freight costs are included.

There’s no indication yet that South Korea, this year’s major source of imported beams, has retreated from its strong first-quarter showing. April import permit applications for Korean wide-flange beams totaled 11,112 tonnes through April 23 vs. imports of 7,670 tonnes from Korea in all of March, according to data from the Commerce Department’s Import Administration.

First-quarter imports of Korean wide-flange beams totaled 40,057 tonnes, greater than any other country, according to the Import Administration, with most shipments arriving on the West Coast.

Buyers this past week were waiting for quotes on Korean beams for delivery in the late second quarter and early third quarter, which were reported earlier this year in a range of $720 to $760 per ton ($36 to $38 per cwt) ex-dock. Russian standard beams, of which considerably less has arrived on the West Coast this year, reportedly were below $720 per ton.

Meanwhile, foreign-fighter pricing—or outright price-cutting—is being seen in other parts of the country. While relatively limited buys to fill holes in distributors’ inventories are often transacted at official book pricing, other purchases that earlier this year might have taken place at the published level are now open to price-cutting, market observers said.

"Some people are still buying at published book (prices)—and some aren’t," a Midwest distributor said.

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