US HRC Steel prices stable amid little new import competition

22 January 2016

Domestic hot-rolled coil prices in the US were flat on Thursday as sources noted any possible deals from mills are gone, while new HRC import offer prices were up but generating little interest from buyers.

A domestic mill source said February was looking stable and they had not made a sale below $400/st since the last price increases were announced around 10 days ago. He added there had been some success at booking $410-$420/st for smaller tons.

Spot prices for domestic HRC were firm at $400/st, according to one buyer who put order size under 500 st. He said current spot prices were well above other references of HRC around $380/st.

A second buyer said previous deals from some mills looking to get their HRC lead times out of January were no longer available and new pricing was closer to $400-$405/st for bigger buyers. However, he said some of those prices were on a delivered basis as opposed to ex-works.

He believed that buyers are going to continue to push for lower prices as "they have no option," but had "no idea why the mills would give in" for the time being. Some mills have noted unprofitable sales were made in a "competitive situation" as they are "very concerned with losing market share," he added.

Platts maintained its daily HRC and cold-rolled coil assessment at $400-$420/st and $520-$540/st, respectively. Both prices are normalized to a Midwest (Indiana) ex-works basis.

On the import front, the buyer said he was starting to get more offers, but numbers "haven't been good." He referred to "aggressive" Mexican HRC offers into Houston at $380/st, which did not generate much interest.

A trader said HRC imports into Houston have gone up around $20/mt recently based off of the recent domestic increases.

Some South American HRC was being offered into Houston between $355-$360/st from various sources on a delivered duty-paid basis, a trader said. There has been some interest from buyers looking to book for the second quarter, but the volumes are not very high, he added.

"Everyone is a little bit cautious about the [domestic] prices of course," as opinions remain mixed about whether higher prices have staying power in the US, according to the trader.

Platts increased its import HRC assessment to $340-$360/st from $317-$340/st previously. Prices are on a CIF Houston basis.