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West Coast flat-rolled prices losing traction

Keywords: Tags  steel, flat-rolled, West Coast, USS-Posco Industries, California Steel Industries, South Korea, China, flat-rolled prices Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Flat-rolled steel prices are losing ground on the West Coast, with market sources reporting recent offers down at least $20 per ton ($1 per hundredweight) over the past two to three weeks.

"Pricing at the mills seems to be sliding," a distributor source said, but added that the decline has not pressured him to lower his resale prices.

"The writing’s on the wall," another buyer said, adding that he does not think the falloff is over.

The latest domestic prices on locally produced hot-rolled sheet for April production have dropped $20 to $30 per ton ($1 to $1.50 per cwt) in the past month to an estimated range of $640 to $650 per ton ($32 to $32.50 per cwt) for larger buyers compared with an estimated $620 to $630 per ton ($31 to $31.50 per cwt) for South Korean hot-rolled, or slightly lower for the largest buyers.

The spread between domestic and imported product is probably greatest in cold-rolled coil, where China is reported at $660 to $680 per ton ($33 to $34 per cwt) for May, at least $60 to $80 per ton ($3 to $4 per cwt) below the best domestic offers and around $120 per ton ($6 per cwt) under "official" domestic prices.

Meanwhile, China also remains the most aggressive source of galvanized steel with a reported base price of $740 per ton ($37 per cwt) for May-June arrival, even though domestic prices in some cases reportedly have dropped below $800 per ton ($40 per cwt). However, West Coast galvanized lines remain busy, having already closed their March books and, in at least one case, reportedly close to finishing up April, according to market observers.

No industrywide pricing announcement has been reported since Pittsburg, Calif.-based USS-Posco Industries Inc. set minimum prices of $725 per ton ($36.25 per cwt) for hot-rolled pickled and oiled, $810 per ton ($40.50 per cwt) for cold-rolled and $860 per ton ($43 per cwt) for hot-dipped galvanized (, Jan. 31).

The other major flat-rolled producer on the West Coast, Fontana, Calif.-based California Steel Industries Inc., last changed its general prices in December, announcing it would raise February orders by a minimum of $30 per ton ($1.50 per cwt) for hot-rolled and pickled and oiled, $40 per ton ($2 per cwt) on cold-rolled and $50 per ton ($2.50 per cwt) on galvanized (, Dec. 13), according to these sources.

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