US hot-rolled coil index stable; peak still on the way?

Hot-rolled coil prices in the United States have remained in the $57- to $58-per-hundredweight ($1,140- to $1,160-per-short-ton) range, with most market participants indicating that the market has not yet reached its tipping point.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US was calculated at $57.68 per cwt ($1,153.60 per ton) on Wednesday February 3, down by 0.22% from $57.81 per cwt the previous day but up by 2.82% from $56.10 per cwt a week earlier.

Inputs were received in a range from $55.00-62.50 per cwt, with the low and high ends representing inputs from consumers. Inputs were carried over in the distributor sub-index due to a lack of liquidity there, and in the consumer sub-index to minimize day-to-day volatility.

Heard in the market
Imports are expected to hit US shores in the coming weeks, which could put a psychological damper on prices, according to market participants. But new orders for imported hot band are not being placed for the most part, because most buyers believe that prices will drop by the time that material would arrive, around June, they said. Others still think that the market could peak earlier, with prices coming down in April or May.

Spot availability remains tight domestically, with some mills yet to open their order books for March and April, sources said. Some buyers have still been having a hard time stomaching these historically high numbers, they said.

Inventory levels remain below where they should be, according to some sources. That could extend the price rally longer and prevent prices from dropping rapidly after the market has peaked.

Most domestic ferrous scrap market participants have agreed that prime scrap prices will be sideways for February but were divided on how much secondary scrap grades will fall.

Quote of the day
“What will get the mills’ attention is foreign tonnage and how much will come in,” a steel buyer said. “We’ll start to see [import tons] grow here month to month going forward… Some big buyers couldn’t get [those tons] domestically and are getting fed up with it.”

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