DETROIT In a leading move east of the Rockies, U.S. Steel Corp. has increased base prices on its steel sheet products by a minimum of $20 per ton effective immediately, a move widely expected to be followed by other producers.
The increase affects spot orders on all new flat-rolled products, the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker told customers in a Dec. 16 letter.
Two West Coast steel producers announced flat-rolled price increases last week (amm.com, Dec. 13).
The price hike has been expected for weeks. Market participants had said that with momentum on the mills side, extended lead times and a few more months until imports arrive, the move would make sense. They noted that business typically picks up in the first quarter, so higher pricing was expected. In addition, higher raw material costs would force mills to increase pricing.
"The mills needed to at least try it," one Midwest service center source said. "Everyone was expecting them to do it by year-end."
A second Midwest service center source, however, cited uncertainty over the widening spread between domestic and import pricing, noting that hot-rolled and cold-rolled coil spreads are greater than $100 per ton while some coated and painted products have spreads up to $200 per ton.
"There is a lot of fear about how much foreign is going to arrive," the source said. "My feeling is things will be stable until March then soften quickly (because of imports)."