HRC returns to $30/cwt on supply concerns

Hot-rolled coil prices in the United States inched up on Friday September 25, although market participants were unsure whether supply constraints will have enough of an impact to maintain or even boost prices, given expectations for lukewarm demand heading into year end.

Fastmarkets daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US was calculated at $30 per hundredweight ($600 per short ton) on Friday, up by 0.4% from $29.87 per cwt on Thursday and by 4.8% from $28.62 per cwt on September 18.

Heard in the market
Inputs were received across all three sub-indices for producers, distributors and consumers, ranging from $28-32 per cwt. No data was captured via data submitter agreement. The assessor discarded an input at the lower end of the range because it could not be confirmed. The high end of the range represented offers from mills for relatively small tonnages.

Lead times were into December at some mills, according to market participants and mill lead time estimates.

Producer and buyer sources were mostly in agreement that prices have been buoyed by short-term capacity constraints, which include a slab shortage, planned and unplanned outages, contract allocating, the strike by workers at NLMK USA’s plant in Pennsylvania and low import levels.

It was not clear to many market participants, however, how long the current rebound might last.

Some buyer sources said they will continue to wait to see if the rebound dissipates before restocking, predicting that mills might struggle to maintain current prices through the end of the year due to seasonality.

Still, others said they were preparing for the possibility that typical end-of-year discounts might not be available this year, which could impede restocking efforts.

West Coast buyers pointed out that mills in the region have not increased prices to the degree expected. They also noted an increase in import offers, likely due to rising domestic prices and a strengthening US dollar, although not all of those offers were considered attractive.

Quote of the day
“The market is staying tight artificially,” a producer source said regarding the impact of the slab quota on mills’ ability to produce hot band. “Everyone understands we’re going to have a bump [in prices] short term, but I don’t know how long it lasts… it’ll be an interesting contract season, but beyond the first quarter of next year, who knows.”

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