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West Coast market unsure on plate price hikes

Keywords: Tags  steel plate, West Coast, price increase, Evraz Inc North America, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — West Coast buyers of carbon plate are viewing a $30-per-ton hike by domestic producers with caution as the resale market has yet to indicate it’s ready for higher prices.

"There’s still a lot of cheap plate being quoted out there, and many of our customers are waiting until the last minute to pull the trigger on orders," said a distribution executive, who added that it’s not clear the market is ready for an increase.

Domestic plate mills east of the Rockies have announced a $30-per-ton hike effective July 11. As of late last week, market sources said they weren’t aware that the West Coast’s only producer of discrete plate, Portland, Ore.-based Evraz Inc. North America, had formerly posted a hike, although they were expecting an announcement.

Prices on warehouse grades and sizes of domestic plate before the hike were estimated at $770 per ton ($38.50 per hundredweight) delivered to the West Coast. The increase, if successful, would bring the price up to about $40 per cwt compared with import tags that early this month were reported at about $36 cwt or less ex-dock for South Korean plate and even more recently at less than $35 per cwt from Taiwan for shipment in September.

Energy-related demand remains one of the strongest market sectors, especially tankage and refinery maintenance and repair, as well as some new terminal projects.

"Demand is strong and we’re struggling to keep up with estimates," said a fabricator who thinks prices recently bottomed and will head up shortly. A service center buyer noted that plate is being bought along all stages of the energy sector, from offshore rigs to refineries.

Buy America restrictions probably affect plate more than any other steel category, although certain energy companies will accept Korean, Taiwanese or Japanese product. But some fabricators maintain it’s usually simpler to stick with domestic plate unless an import’s price advantage is too great to ignore.

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