US hot-rolled coil index continues creep toward $50/cwt

Hot-rolled coil prices in the United States continued to climb toward $50 per hundredweight ($1,000 per short ton), with little spot availability and relatively long lead times maintaining record-high prices, according to market participants.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil price, fob mill US was calculated at $49.22 per cwt ($984.40 per ton) on Thursday December 17, up by 0.68% from $48.89 per cwt on Wednesday December 16 and 9.65% higher than $44.89 per cwt a week earlier. The index now stands at its highest since $50 per cwt in early September 2008.

Inputs were received in a range of $47-52 per cwt across all three sub-indices, with deals reported roughly in the middle of that range and credible assessments above and below.

Heard in the market
Spot availability remains limited, with some production tons available for late January 2021 and early February 2021 at prices above $50 per cwt, according to sources. Those tons are being saved for contract customers first, however, sources noted.

As a result, some service centers are desperate for material and turning toward competitors for help, market participants said. Others said that some end users are getting spooked by the rapidly increasing prices and trying to delay purchases if possible.

Imports are expected to start arriving in January, but at low volumes that likely will not make enough of an impact in terms of supply to lower prices, sources said. Steel supply also remains tight worldwide, sources noted. Some believe prices could remain elevated beyond February, but many buyers are worried about a rapid drop.

Quote of the day
“We are as concerned as anyone with the timing of the drop as we know [the price] will not decrease slowly,” a midwestern service center source said. “You can certainly make some very bad buy decisions right now and might be regretting things six months from now.”

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