Cold-Rolled Imports Still Benefiting from Higher US Prices

Written by David Schollaert

Foreign cold-rolled coil’s (CRC) pricing advantage over domestic product widened this past week as US prices rose further in response to continued mill tag hikes, according to Steel Market Update’s latest foreign vs. domestic price analysis of the CRC market.

The move continues to widen the gap between US and offshore cold-rolled. Longer lead times – presently averaging eight weeks – could also incentivize buyers to seek relief from inflated domestic cold-rolled.

Domestic cold-rolled is now roughly 35% more expensive than foreign material (except for Japan-origin CR, which is roughly 7% more expensive due to a 71% tariff). That premium is wider than just four weeks ago when domestic CRC was ~15% more costly than imported product.

US prices had been cheaper than foreign prices for two of the four regions we follow (Germany and Japan) since the beginning of the year after adding freight costs, trader margins, and applicable tariffs. That changed when US CRC prices rose $425 per ton since January, accentuated by another $270 per ton through the first week in March.

Domestic CRC held, on average, a $77-per-ton disadvantage over imported steel as recently as early February. That has swelled to a $379-per-ton disadvantage this week as US prices have continued to rise.

SMU uses the following calculation to identify the theoretical spread between foreign CRC prices (delivered to US ports) and domestic CRC prices (FOB domestic mills): Our analysis compares the SMU US CRC weekly index to the CRU CRC weekly indices for Germany, Italy, and eastern and south-eastern Asian ports (South Korea and Japan). This is only a theoretical calculation because costs to import can vary greatly, influencing the true market spread.

In consideration of freight costs, handling, and trader margin, we add $90 per ton to all foreign prices to provide an approximate CIF US ports price to compare to the SMU domestic CRC price. Buyers should use our $90-per-ton figure as a benchmark and adjust up or down based on their own shipping and handling costs. If you import steel and want to share your thoughts on these costs, we welcome your insight at

Asian Cold-Rolled Coil (South Korea and Japan theoretical)

As of Thursday, March 23, the CRU Asian CRC price decreased by $9 per ton to $771 per net ton ($850 per metric ton) but was up roughly $9 per ton from levels one month prior. Adding a 71% anti-dumping duty (Japan theoretical), and $90 per ton in estimated import costs, the delivered price to the US is $1,409 per ton, though the South Korean theoretical is $861 per ton. The latest SMU cold-rolled average is $1,320 per ton, up $15 per ton week on week (WoW), and up $270 per ton compared to our price one month ago.

US-produced CRC is now theoretically just $89 per ton cheaper than steel imported from Japan but $459 per ton more costly than cold-rolled imported from South Korea. This is more than double the US competitive disadvantage of $198 per ton from a month ago vs. South Korean CRC.

ForeignVsDomestic Fig1

ForeignVsDomestic Fig2

Italian Cold-Rolled Coil

Italian CRC prices increased by $17 per ton WoW to $875 per net ton ($965 per metric ton) this week, and are $41 per ton higher month on month (MoM). After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian CRC is approximately $965 per ton.

Domestic CRC is now theoretically $355 per ton more expensive than imported Italian CRC. That spread is down $2 per ton WoW and represents a nearly $229-per-ton boost compared to four weeks ago when US CRC was $126 per ton more expensive than Italian product.

ForeignVsDomestic Fig3

German Cold-Rolled Coil

CRU’s latest German CRC price slipped by $1 per ton WoW to $906 per net ton ($999 per metric ton) but is up $34 per ton MoM. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German CRC is roughly $996 per ton.

Domestic CRC is now theoretically $324 per ton more expensive than imported German CRC. That’s a $236-per-ton jump from just a month ago.

The last time US CRC had held a price advantage over German product was in late May 2021.

ForeignVsDomestic Fig4

Figure 5 compares all five price indices and highlights the effective date of the tariffs. The chart on the left shows historical variation from Jan. 1, 2021, through present. The chart on the right zooms in to highlight the recent surge in US pricing.

ForeignVsDomestic Fig5

Notes: Freight is an important consideration in deciding whether to import foreign steel or buy from a domestic mill. Domestic prices are referenced as FOB the producing mill, while foreign prices are CIF the port (Houston, NOLA, Savannah, Los Angeles, Camden, etc.). Inland freight, from either a domestic mill or from the port, can also have a big impact. It’s also important to factor in lead times. In most markets, domestic steel will deliver more quickly than foreign steel – although that is less the case in the current market.

Effective Jan. 1, 2022, the traditional Section 232 tariff of 25% no longer applies to most imports from the European Union. It has been replaced by a tariff rate quota (TRQ). Therefore, the German and Italian price comparisons in this analysis no longer include a 25% tariff. SMU still includes Section 232 tariff on foreign prices from other countries where applicable.

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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