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Bar market split on possibility of hikes on scrap price gains

Keywords: Tags  Rebar, merchant bar, prices, scrap metal, wire rod, Thorsten Schier

NEW YORK — Rebar and merchant bar sources are split on the likelihood of price increases in those markets after a rise in scrap tags this month that has since led to a $20-per-ton ($1-per-hundredweight) wire rod increase by most U.S. mills.

Rebar sources polled said an increase was likely after scrap prices climbed in March and demand is starting to pick up in some regions due to improving weather.

"You would think that they will be announcing something. We’re starting to be busier here now because it’s getting warmer," one rebar fabricator in the Midwest said.

However, sources were split on the timing of a possible increase, as one Midwest service center source expects an increase "any day now," while a second rebar fabricator in the region said mills might hold off until the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) makes its preliminary decision in an anti-dumping case on rebar from Turkey and Mexico, scheduled for April 18.

"I’m sure they’ll try (to raise prices) but they have to hold off until the import decision is made," he said.

Rebar imports from Turkey are set to reach their highest level in over a year in March, at 142,988 tonnes, according to license data through April 8 from Commerce’s Enforcement and Compliance division.

AMM’s assessment for domestic rebar prices is steady at $34.50 per hundredweight ($690 per ton), although the second Midwest fabricator said his buying price recently has been closer to $33.50 to $34 per cwt ($670 to $680 per ton) for spot tons, attributing this to leaner order books at some mills in his area.

Meanwhile, merchant bar sources don’t expect a hike despite the scrap increase as demand remains tepid in some regions.

"I’m not expecting anything. It’s still a question of demand," an East Coast service center source said.

Domestic merchant bar prices have been steady since mid-February and remained so this past week.

On wire rod, domestic prices for all grades assessed by AMM remained unchanged this past week since a recently announced increase—so far followed by four domestic mills (, April 11)—is only slated to be effective in early May.

One possible challenge to the increase is the continuing influx of wire rod from China, sources said, with 67,021 tonnes slated to hit U.S. shores for March and 46,187 tonnes already on the books for April, Enforcement and Compliance data show.

"There’s still a ton of Chinese (material) coming," one Midwest wire rod fabricator said.

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