LOS ANGELES Flat-rolled steel prices on the West Coast remain steady although growing output east of the Rockies suggests mills outside the region could be nearing a return to this market.
"If anything, the price has gone down a tick," a hot-rolled coil buyer said, referring to an easing in some cases of $5 to $10 per ton for July prices from June. Several other buyers said their July hot-rolled price will hold even with June.
This regions two major flat-rolled producers have not announced price increases in more than two months. Fontana, Calif.-based California Steel Industries Inc. raised prices April 8 on galvanized sheet by a minimum of $30 per ton ($1.50 per hundredweight) and prices on other sheet products by $20 per ton ($1 per cwt), while Pittsburg, Calif.-based USS-Posco Industries Inc. raised its prices by $30 per ton on hot-rolled pickled and oiled, cold-rolled annealed and galvanized sheet April 4 (amm.com, April 25).
Domestic hot-rolled prices are reported in the range of $680 to $700 per ton ($34 to $35 per cwt) with imports, principally from South Korea, down about $40 per ton from those levels.
Market sources noted that despite signs West Coast prices have peaked or even eased a bit, this development is less worrisome compared with other regions, where tags are off by about $30 per ton in the past month.
"So far, the threat of price erosion (on the West Coast) seems to be a bit less scary than it is in the Midwest," an industry observer said.
However, some buyers said that certain mills that have not been active on the West Coast this year may be looking to move low-priced material outside the Midwest rather than slashing prices in their markets. Factors spurring the shift range from a continued rise in output following this winters weather-induced disruptions to softening prices with spot tonnage in the Midwest reported as low as $32 per cwt to some high-volume customers,
"Its already started," one buyer said, adding that he recently purchased hot-rolled coil from the Midwest at a price competitive with material produced on the West Coast.
"This is all supply-related," a service center executive said, citing increased production in the Midwest.