Traders selling foreign hot-rolled steel into the U.S. market
are hoping that the recent price increases by U.S. mills,
coupled with domestic labor issues and outages, will revive the
lackluster importing sector.
But with buyers
continuing to cite long import lead times, with delivery into
the fall, and little incentive to buy foreign when domestic
prices are hovering around the $600-per-ton mark, import
business has nonetheless continued to be difficult.
"For us flat-rolled
traders, were all dead in the water. The importing
business has been so dull lately; theres just no zip,"
one trader said. "If hot-rolled gets tighter and prices climb,
maybe there will be a glimmer of hope."
Offers for imported
hot-rolled coil have been almost nonexistent in the U.S. market
due to lower-priced domestic product, traders said, adding that
with Russian hot-rolled effectively out of the market due to
the suspension agreement, few options remain in the spot
"I havent booked
a pound of hot-rolled in a long time," a second trader
The small amount of
business concluded this week for hot-rolled coil into the Port
of Houston was reported at between $560 and $600 per ton c.i.f.
compared with domestic prices around $590 per ton f.o.b.
But if domestic prices
continue to rise, traders say its possible imported sheet
could again gain some traction.
Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. raised spot prices on all
flat-rolled steel products by a minimum of $50 per ton, a move
mirrored by a number of other mills (
amm.com, May 23). While its too early to
tell to what degree the recent increases will hold, buyers told
AMM that mills are starting to hold the line on the
"Were hoping the
price increase recently will help stabilize the market.
Theres some indication that things are moving a little,"
a third trader said. "But at the same time, theres still
too much production."
A number of steel
traders confirmed that on top of the lack of Russian sheet
availability, Brazilian product also has been "out of the U.S.
market" for some time.
been an option for four months now. They dont like the
pricing here," a fourth trader said.
however, seem to have been more competitive recently,
particularly as Chinese mills and traders have again started to
offer low-priced deals mirroring those reported last fall (
amm.com, Sept. 5). Sources reported cold-rolled
coil transactions at $650 to $660 per ton into the Port of
Houston for September and October delivery, lower than domestic
prices around $690 per ton f.o.b. Midwest mill.
"Chinese prices are
where they were last October when the market bottomed," the
fourth trader said. "Thats because Chinese internal
demand isnt growing at any measurable pace. Theres
no other place to sell steel than here. Europe is no longer a
good market, and were the market of choice."
Others noted, however,
that Chinese product has been much more competitive on the West
Coast than on the East or Gulf coasts due to shorter lead
plenty of buying activity, but pricing is as tough as can be,"
a fifth trader said. "Cold-rolled is definitely attractive, but
people are not rushing to place huge orders."
But looking into the
summer, traders say something fundamental will need to change
before import business will see a meaningful pickup.
"(Domestic) lead times
are short, and I suppose itll be a leap of faith that
this recent price increase will stick. Somethings gotta
give," the second trader said.