West Coast buyers of flat-rolled steel expect foreign mills to
move for a price increase after remaining surprisingly
competitive on early 2014 arrivals.
After seeing only
slight increases, if any, for delivery in January and early
February, buyers said its likely that offshore producers
and traders might try to push through more significant hikes in
the next round of offers.
competition, along with demand from this regions
consuming industries thats less robust than the Midwest,
has prevented steel tags from rising at the same pace as
markets east of the Rockies, according to some buyers.
"Its like there
are two economies," one distributor said, comparing flat-rolled
demand in the Midwest with what he and others describe as a
continuing struggle to raise West Coast resale prices.
But a growing number
of market sources think its likely that the next round of
import offers, expected during the next week or two, could
reflect a broader push by overseas mills to implement hikes
after 2013, which ended up with what some regard as only
halfhearted attempts to boost prices. Buyers also point out
that importers are doing little to discourage this outlook.
me they might now have a limited supply (going forward)," one
market source said of his South Korean coil mills, whose
hot-rolled material is generally seen as the leading import
factor. Prices for the product were recently in the range of
$600 to $610 per ton ($30 to $30.50 per hundredweight) ex-dock
for delivery in January or early February.
This compares with
recent attempts to raise domestic hot-rolled coil prices by $34
to $35 per cwt for January from an earlier estimated $32 per
cwt in late 2013 but as high as $37 per cwt or more delivered
from east of the Rockies, where mill increases have reportedly
met with greater success.
While initial New
Zealand hot-rolled offers to the trade were estimated at around
$33 per cwt in the most recent round, some buyers think these
might have been negotiated down to $31 to $32 per cwt.