NEW YORK There was optimism for hollow structural sections (HSS) demand as several domestic mills announced $20-per-ton increases over the past few days, but market participants questioned whether coil prices will hold up to support the increase.
"I perceive a strengthening in the market. Volumes are holding and margins are holding, which is kind of a good way to start off the year," one Midwest mill source said.
Despite signs of stiffer demand, a Midwest distributor questioned whether the increases would be effective due to a potential softening in coil prices.
"Theres just too much foreign coil coming in thats going to mitigate the (flat-rolled) increases," he said.
Hot-rolled coil prices have softened slightly to $33.75 per hundredweight ($675 per ton) from $34 per cwt ($680 per ton) previously (amm.com, Jan. 17).
Atlas Tube Inc., a subsidiary of Chicago-based JMC Steel Group Inc., kicked off the increase and was followed by Chicago-based Maruichi Leavitt Pipe & Tube LLC (amm.com, Jan. 21) and Birmingham, Ala.-based American Tube Manufacturing Inc. (amm.com, Jan. 21), with sources saying at least two other domestic HSS mills had also raised prices, although those increases could not be confirmed.
Meanwhile, U.S. shipments of carbon pipe and tube totaled 186,500 tons in December, up 5.4 percent from 177,000 tons in the same month last year, while the monthly tally fell 9.6 percent vs. November, according to the latest figures from the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI).
Inventories fell to 3.8 months supply from 4.1 months a year earlier but the level was up from 3.4 months in November.
In Canada, December shipments stood at 37,800 tons, up 1.1 percent from 37,400 tons in the same month last year, but down 25.9 percent from 51,000 tons in November.
For the year, U.S. shipments fell 1.3 percent to 273 million tons compared with the year prior, while Canadian deliveries tumbled 8 percent to 630,800 tons.