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W. Coast flat-rolled steel hikes gain traction

Keywords: Tags  flat-rolled steel, steel prices, USS-Posco Industries, U.S. Steel, California Steel Industries, CSI, Great Lakes Works, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — West Coast prices for flat-rolled steel appear to be rising, although probably not as much as in parts of the country that are feeling the impact of production disruptions in the Midwest.

"The market hasn’t completely settled, but I think some of it will stick," a source at one downstream fabricator said about recent $40-per-ton ($2-per-hundredweight) price increase announcements by the West Coast’s two major flat-rolled mills. He estimated his hot-rolled coil increase at $10 to $20 per ton (50 cents to $1 per cwt).

USS-Posco Industries Inc., Pittsburg, Calif., told customers it would raise base prices by a minimum of $40 per ton on hot-rolled pickled and oiled, cold-rolled and galvanized sheet effective March 18. California Steel Industries Inc. (CSI), Fontana, Calif., subsequently said it would increase its transaction prices on hot-rolled, pickled and oiled, cold-rolled and galvanized sheet by a minimum of $40 per ton (, March 20).

Other U.S. markets are feeling the impact of disruptions at Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp.’s Great Lakes Works in Ecorse, Mich. (, March 28), along with reports of strains on the front-end production of at least one other major Midwest steelmaking facility. For this reason, $40-per-ton increases appear to have a better chance of sticking, according to market sources.

On the West Coast, however, "it’s all about the resale price—it’s still not where we’d like to see it," one service center buyer said, noting that distributors are selling into a market that continues to reflect the arrival of low-priced imports.

However, even some key import players are working to boost tags. Initial offers for South Korean hot-rolled coil that earlier were in a range of $31 to $31.50 per cwt ex-dock are in certain cases above $32 per cwt for June shipment, about $1 to $2 per cwt below domestic hot-rolled, as some buyers see the material becoming a bit less competitive with domestic hot-rolled than in recent months.

"I’m not sure if there’s going to be a line forming to buy South Korean hot-rolled at $32 (per cwt)," a market source said.

But Chinese cold-rolled for June shipment has barely budged from earlier offers and is reported as low as $32.50 to $33 per cwt for June-July shipment compared with the most aggressive domestic prices reported at $38 to $39 per cwt. Offers for Chinese galvanized have been reported at a base price of $35 to $36 per cwt, an estimated $5 to $7 per cwt under domestic, depending on the buyers and specific product.

Meanwhile, CSI told customers April 3 that it had reached its May "order capacity" for galvanized and its order book for the product "is now closed." It said it continues to accept orders on all other products.

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