LOS ANGELES Flat-rolled steel prices continue to move up on the West Coast, but the continuing role of imports is working to keep the market competitive.
Transaction prices in many cases have risen about $40 to $50 per ton since they bottomed out earlier this year, buyers said in the past week. But they also pointed out that, as far as theyre concerned, "theres no shortage of steel," and in many cases they still have the option of buying from either domestic or offshore sources.
In the recently announced increases, California Steel Industries Inc., Fontana, Calif., said it would raise prices for hot-rolled, pickled and oiled, and cold-rolled products by $20 per ton ($1 per hundredweight) and galvanized material by $30 per ton ($1.50 per cwt) effective June 28 (amm.com, June 28). USS-Posco Industries Inc., Pittsburg, Calif., told customers it would raise hot-rolled pickled and oiled and cold-rolled sheet by $20 per ton and galvanized sheet by $30 per ton, according to sources.
Domestic hot-rolled coil is estimated at $34 to $34.50 per cwt delivered on the West Coast, while the latest offers from such sources as South Korea and New Zealand were reported in a range of $30.50 to $31.50 per cwt for arrival in September or early October.
The latest reported offers from China suggest a cold-rolled coil base of $33.50 to $34 per cwt, about $50 per ton higher than this years low point a month or two ago, for material expected to arrive in late October. But market sources said its far from clear that this price wont come down in future negotiations. This is at least $60 to $80 per ton under stated domestic prices, although there are reports that substantial domestic orders could narrow the gap considerably.
Some buyers who purchase material from mills both on the West Coast and east of the Rockies said its their impression that supply is relatively tighter in the Midwest than in the West.
"Sure, you can probably find a deal anywhere if youre looking for one, but thats less so with the Midwest mills," a buyer said.
A few buyers said theyre still living off import inventory purchased a few months ago, when prices hit bottom. One distributor pointed out that given the pattern of the past few years, he isnt likely to have much of a requirement for the rest of 2013 after imports ordered in the next few weeks arrive in October.