LOS ANGELES Flat-rolled steel prices on the West Coast appear poised to rise, but the size of any increase could still hinge on the success of imports achieving pricing gains.
January prices are generally flat vs. the fourth quarter for West Coast-produced material despite increases implemented east of the Rockies. This has increasingly turned some buyers in the region, who were purchasing a portion of their requirements from the Midwest, toward imports.
"There are no deals back East today," a California buyer said of delivered prices for flat rolled made east of the Rockies.
USS-Posco Industries Inc., Pittsburg, Calif., and California Steel Industries Inc., Fontana, Calif., both raised galvanized sheet prices by $60 per ton ($3 per hundredweight), and hot-rolled pickled and oiled, and cold-rolled sheet by $40 per ton ($2 per cwt) last month (amm.com, Nov. 4).
But most sources said large buyers in particular were able to avoid paying sharply higher hot-rolled prices on the West Coast, resulting in a growing gap between locally produced steel and coils shipped from other parts of the country.
It now costs about $37.50 to $38.50 per cwt to bring in hot-rolled coil from the Midwest, including freight.
"And nobody is equalizing freight anymore," one distributor said of mills outside the West Coast, who a few months ago would swallow part of the shipping cost in order to sell coil into the region.
West Coast hot-rolled coil is estimated at $32.50 to $34 per cwt for January, depending on the size of the buyer and when it was ordered. An increase of at least $30 per ton has been indicated for February, buyers said.
"And so far their sticking to their guns," one buyer said of CSIs push to increase hot-rolled sheet prices.
Meanwhile, initial reports have South Korean mills pushing for increases of $10 to $20 per ton, to about $31.50 to $32 per cwt ex-dock for March arrival. Traders are also trying to get $10 to $20 per ton more for Chinese cold-rolled sheet, which last month sold at $33.50 per cwt ex-dock, sources said. This compares with U.S. base prices of $38 to $39 per cwt in the Los Angeles market, although "foreign fighter" deals were reported as low as $35 per cwt.
Sources said some domestic mill executives are determined to reduce these discounts going forward.