LOS ANGELES Flat-rolled steel buyers on the West Coast are growing cautious amid initial indications that prices for some products may have reached at least a temporary plateau.
Preliminary indications are that local domestic prices for March hot-rolled coils arent likely to move up from their current estimated range of $670 to $710 per ton ($33.50 to $35.50 per hundredweight), depending on the volume of the purchase, according to market sources.
While South Korea, the major import market factor in hot-rolled, had yet to issue firm quotes for April shipments early this week, market sources said their suppliers have suggested prices probably wont advance more than about $10 per ton (50 cents per cwt) from an earlier-reported range of $31.50 to $32.50 per cwt.
Some buyers noted that, even though delivered hot-rolled from mills east of the Rockiesestimated as high as $37.50 to $38.50 per cwt during the past monthhasnt been competitive in this region, production lead times from some Midwest or Southeastern producers are now as short as Feb. 1. This had led to speculation these mills could be looking for West Coast business in the not-too-distant future.
"They havent called me yet, but Im thinking they may be ready to participate again on the West Coast fairly soon," one distribution executive said about Midwest producers, noting that domestic mills outside the West Coast havent generally been competitive with this regions main hot-rolled source, California Steel Industries Inc., Fontana, Calif., since November.