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W. Coast plate prices up, but future iffy

Keywords: Tags  West Coast plate, plate prices, plate hikes, plate market, carbon steel plate, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — U.S. carbon steel plate prices have risen on the West Coast, although there’s little agreement on the likelihood of the market improving much further.

Domestic warehouse plate prices have risen by about $20 per ton over the past month to $800 to $830 per ton ($40 to $41.50 per hundredweight), depending on the size of the order and the local market, sources said, attributing it more to mills’ determination to push through a hike rather than an actual improvement in end markets.

The increase is seen reflecting most of an earlier $30-per-ton hike, but the jury is out on a second round of $25 hikes.

"Most of the first increase stuck, but the mills are vacillating on the latest (hike)," one distributor source said. "At least they’re not dropping the price."

At one point earlier in the summer the domestic price hit a low of $38 to $38.50 per cwt, some observers said.

The latest quotes on South Korean and Taiwanese plate are about $35 per cwt base or lower ex-dock, duty paid, which could rise by at least $1 to $1.50 per cwt when factoring in extras and shipment from the ports. Mexico is reported at less than $37 per cwt into southern California.

"I don’t think anyone has the stomach for speculating on material today," another distributor source said. Like many of his counterparts, he cited steady business but without many large projects.

Energy and petrochemical-related industry demand remains one of the strongest segments, and few mills or distributors appear willing to push through hikes to these customers. On the other hand, hardly any significant bridge projects appear imminent.

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