LOS ANGELES Prices for structural steel tubing are holding steady on the West Coast, with mills and buyers awaiting signs that conditions are ripe to post an increase.
Mill selling prices remain fairly solid nearly two months after the latest increase even though they arent "setting any records" in overall sales volumes, market sources told AMM.
"By and large, the numbers are stable," one source said about hollow structural section (HSS) prices, noting that this is occurring with little indication of strengthening demand.
Prices for truckload shipments (about 20 tons) of core sizes of A500 Grade B HSS in the Los Angeles market are estimated at $970 to $990 per ton ($48.50 to $49.50 per hundredweight).
Current price levels are a result of $40-per-ton increases slated by California tubing producers for November (amm.com, Dec. 4), although the full increase isnt necessarily included in what buyers are paying today. This leaves local tubers at least two rounds of increases behind mills east of the Rockies, including the latest $20-per-ton announcement (amm.com, Jan. 21).
However, unlike producers in the Midwest and South, which have in the past been quick to announce price increases only to rescind them shortly thereafter, West Coast tubing mills are typically more conservative, electing to post increases only when they are reasonably sure theyll stick.
Not have they apparently stuck, but they have held firm for longer than any time "in the last couple of years," one mill executive said.
Certain mills are requesting larger minimum orders of at least a truckload on some larger, less common sizesviewed as a "positive" sign in terms of keeping prices firm, one buyer noted.
Whether this will encourage tubers on the West Coast to follow the latest $20-per-ton increase by their counterparts in the East is unclear. Imports, specifically South Korean tubing, continue to be priced sharply below domestic product, estimated at $38 to $39 per cwt ex-dock for the most common sizes for arrival in early to mid-May.
Moreover, indications that hot-rolled coils, the major feedstock for tubing mills, might have reached a plateau partly due to the severe freeze in other parts of the countrybringing business to a temporary standstillhas some players cautious.
"Im hoping the extra attention Im getting from certain coil suppliers is due to the cold weather and not a sign that their prices are about to soften," a West Coast tubing executive said.