LOS ANGELES A recent firming in West Coast steel plate prices appears to be losing steam as mills seem more willing to bargain, according to buyers in the region.
Prices on warehouse grades and sizes of domestic plate, which last month reached a delivered base as high as $820 per ton ($41 per hundredweight), are now seen in a broader range that has fallen to about $40 per cwt and under, according to market sources.
The earlier price firming was seen as reflecting most of a $30-per-ton announced hike by domestic producers, although not yet incorporating a second increase of $25 per ton. But buyers noted, for example, that recent plate mill maintenance outages no longer seem to be an issue, and some believe producers are more willing to deal than they were just weeks ago.
"They keep announcing increases but I dont believe it," said a fabricator who was inclined to accept the mill hike announcements but who now sees material offered at prices that contradict any notion of a price increase.
"If you have anything worth looking at, the mills are willing to negotiate," a service center executive said.
South Korea continues to be the source of most import offers, with base prices estimated at $34.50 to $35 per cwt ex-dock, although some sources said their most recent quotes show increases of about $1 per cwt over this level, which they are unsure will hold. In any case, some buyers think imports in general arent especially attractive since many service centers are reluctant to have additional material arrive before year-end.
The energy and petrochemical market continues to count among the strongest consumers of plate. While some fabricators order books in this market have declined for October, bidding for new projects remains robust as other sources report substantial amounts of new work being released.