US hot-rolled coil index continues at historic highs

Hot-rolled coil prices in the United States continue at record highs, with tags at or above $50 per hundredweight ($1,000 per short ton) - a level last seen during the bull rush of 2008.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US was calculated at $50 per cwt on Thursday December 24, roughly flat from $50.06 per cwt the day prior and 1.58% higher than $49.22 per cwt the previous week.

Inputs were captured in a wide range of $50-55 per cwt on Thursday, with recent deals and deals heard at the lower end of the range and speculative offers at the higher end.

The price assessor zeroed an input at the high end of the range, because it was not clear that it would turn into a deal in the near term, as well as a deal that had been reported previously. The assessor also carried over transaction data from the producer sub-index to the consumer sub-index due to a lack of liquidity there.

Heard in the market
Market sources continued to report substantial tightness and a lack of imports to alleviate the pressure. There was considerable speculation about the strategy of US producers in the first quarter of 2021, because only increased domestic steel supply can help US consumers.

In the meantime, rising raw material prices and the limited supply of steel are expected to keep driving prices higher, with some speculating that an increase could be coming in the first week of January.

There were reports of a potential buyer’s strike, however, with particularly large consumers now becoming hesitant to place any orders as downside risk becomes a bigger and bigger concern.

Quotes of the day
“The big buyers are not buying, they’re just not. I’m talking the big pipe buyers. They’re terrified. They’re not going to stick their neck out if the price drops $200-300 [per ton],” one market source said.

“Supply [is] still the issue, and with limited imports inbound, I don’t expect us to peak for [hot-rolled] until March or April now, looks like,” one end user said.

Grace Asenov and Mark Shenk, both in New York, and Lisa Gordon in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

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