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West Coast remains skeptical of plate hikes

Keywords: Tags  steel plate, WEst Coast market, price increase, price realization, Nucor Corp., SSAB Americas, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — The latest round of steel plate price hikes is being greeted on the West Coast with the same skepticism as a previous attempt, although some buyers think there may be an improved chance at least part of the increase might stick.

Lisle, Ill.-based SSAB Americas raised plate prices by $25 per ton on Aug. 9 (, Aug. 9).The move was followed by Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp., which announced a minimum $25 per ton hike effective Aug. 13 (, Aug. 13).

Delivered prices here for warehouse grades and sizes are estimated for the most part holding at $780 to $800 per ton ($39 to $40 per hundredweight). Buyers said an earlier round of $30 increases had a negligible effect in this market.

Still, some buyers look for mills to mount a more determined drive to push through a hike, noting that SSAB’s planned outage during the third quarter could help this effort while local service center inventories are probably lower than a month earlier.

"But I still don’t know how they’re going to do it," a distributor said about the latest price hike. "We’re selling plate almost below mill replacement cost."

"Our sales price isn’t very much higher than the mill price," another service center executive said.

While some market sources attribute this apparent anomaly to heavy import-laden inventories, others maintain that even recent Asian offers of as much as $80 per ton under domestic levels don’t appear to be attracting many buyers, who are intent on holding down their warehouse stocks under any condition.

Petrochemical plants, refineries and other energy-related work continue to be healthy, if not quite at the peak of 2012, suppliers to these industries report. Moreover, the latest spot purchases from service centers to this market have not shown any sign of moving upward, according to these sources.

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