LOS ANGELES The last vestiges of a West Coast hike of $30 per ton on structural steel tubing appear to be fading away as prices return to previous levels.
Increasing tonnages of core sizes of A500 Grade B hollow structural sections in truckload quantities of about 20 tons are being delivered in the Los Angeles market at the former range of $940 to $960 per ton ($47 to $48 per hundredweight), pretty much "washing away" the impact of increases that were to have begun in March and meant to push prices up by at least $30 per ton ($1.50 per cwt), according to market sources. Moreover, the price on larger projects and requirements could fall below $47 per cwt, these sources said.
Observers believe the increases havent held mainly due to the failure of tubers east of the Rockies to maintain their own previously implemented $30-per-ton hikes, which were undercut in part by continual erosion in their coil feedstock costs. They also cite price pressure from imports arriving on the West Coast earlier this year that still weigh upon the local market.
South Korean tubing continues to be offered far below domestic tags, reported at $770 to $790 per ton ($38.50 to $39.50 per cwt) for shipment in late summer. But some sources doubt much foreign tonnage is being booked today even at those highly discounted levels as theres little assurance that average market prices in the region wont be lower by the time this material arrives in September and October, making it less attractive.
Nevertheless, these sources speculate that some of this low-priced offshore material that has already arrived and shipped to distributor warehouses could figure in reports of some service centers undercutting producers by selling below mill price.
Project activity is currently "spotty," some observers said, noting that with the peak season for tubing approaching theyre looking with heightened urgency for signs of at least a modest improvement. At least a few market participants are encouraged by what they see as current demand being sustained, even if its holding at a relatively low level.