Cliffs set $65-per-hundredweight HRC base price to prop up softening market

Cleveland-Cliffs announcement on Monday, April 3 of a $100-per-short-ton increase on all carbon hot-rolled, cold-rolled and coated steel products is aimed at bolstering a softening hot-rolled coil spot market in the United States, sources told Fastmarkets

April’s first week began with the domestic flat-rolled sheet producer setting a minimum base price for hot rolled steel at $1,300 per net ton ($65 per hundredweight), which marks the 10th HRC price increase — totaling $660 per ton — since November 28, 2022.

The successive price increases turbocharged the HRC spot market over the four-month period, with Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US Midwest calculated at $58.23 per hundredweight ($1,164.60 per short ton) on Friday March 31. The index is up by 80.39% from $32.28 per cwt on November 28, when Cleveland-Cliffs first increased base prices for all carbon hot-rolled, cold-rolled and coated steel products by $60 per ton.

But as of Friday, the index had declined for six consecutive days, with buyers holding out for lower offers or turning to the excess market to meet their needs.

“Funny how pricing is in a slight decline, so Cliffs goes the opposite direction and announces a $100[-per-ton] increase,” a distributor said on Monday.

Said a consumer on Friday: “We have noticed the futures market has taken a pretty good downturn over the past week, but, oddly enough, we still continue to hear at least one mill is quoting above $60 for HRC… Buyers hate it, but [we’re] not seeing much relief for the next couple of weeks.”

And a buyer noted on Friday that “everyone I talked to has been willing to negotiate and bring pricing down.”

“Traders I talked to said they’re seeing the same thing, seeing the market tipping — plateaued or peaked,” the buyer told Fastmarkets. He added that he would not be surprised if domestic mills announced another price increase — which came through on Monday.

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