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HSS hike said brewing, but viability questioned

Keywords: Tags  hollow structural sections, HSS, price increase, flat-rolled sheet, MSCI, Metals Service Center Institute, pipe, tube Thorsten Schier

NEW YORK — A price increase on hollow structural sections (HSS) could be brewing in light of recent flat-rolled price jumps, but market sources questioned the viability of such a move based on their expectations for the flat-rolled increase.

Based on recent experience, and “in light of the recent coil increase announcements, HSS mills ... will put out an increase that will be effective with shipments around a month from now,” one Mid-Atlantic distributor said.

But “unless supply and demand for both coil and HSS dramatically change for the better soon, none of these announcements are going to stick, in my opinion,” the distributor added.

“I haven’t seen anything yet, but if all of the flat-rolled mills jump on the bandwagon, it’s possible,” one Midwestern distributor said of an HSS increase, although he was also skeptical of the viability of a potential increase due to questions about the effectiveness of the flat-rolled boost. “I don’t know if there’s enough demand to support the new prices. Also, commodities are still going down and (capacity) utilization was lower recently. You need those to go the other way (for an increase to stick).”

He cited relatively short lead times at domestic mini-mills as a sign that demand isn’t robust.

At least six other domestic mills followed ArcelorMittal USA LLC (, March 18) in raising their flat-rolled prices recently.

Sources said that in general HSS prices have been trending down in light of falling flat-rolled prices since the start of the year.

Meanwhile, North American distributors’ shipments of carbon pipe and tubing fell in February compared with the previous month, according to the latest Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) data.

U.S. shipments totaled 216,400 tons, down 7.7 percent from 234,500 tons in January and 1.6 percent lower than 219,800 tons a year earlier.

Distributors’ inventories stood at 654,700 tons (3 months’ supply at current shipping rates) at the end of February, down from 664,100 (2.8 months’ supply) a month earlier.

Meanwhile, carbon pipe and tubing shipments by Canadian distributors stood at 48,000 tons last month, down 11.4 percent to from 54,200 tons in January and off 5.5 percent from 50,800 tons in the same month a year ago.

Inventories stood at 132,200 tons (2.8 months’ supply) at the end of February vs. 132,500 tons (2.4 months’ supply) a month earlier.

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