Steel Products Prices North America

Final Thoughts

Written by Michael Cowden

Our HRC price is flat this week, and there is a roughly 50/50 split between those who think the $50-per-ton sheet price hikes announced earlier this month will stick and those who think they won’t.

I’m not going to weigh in on which side could be right. But it doesn’t appear to have fazed domestic mills, who I’m told are poised to announce another round of prices increases to at least shore up the first.

gearsA Second Wave of Price Hikes?

Exactly when that second round of increases might be announced depends on who you ask. I’ve got some people telling me it will come as early as Friday, before the Fourth of July. Others tell me it won’t come until the week of July 10 at the earliest. Because who would announce a price hike during a holiday week? And still others say that the hike will come next week, because the holiday would give people enough time to digest it.

I’m not going to place bets on that debate, either. But I will weigh in on the question below.

Why Isn’t the First Sticking (Yet)?

For starters, as some of you have noted, the increase was perhaps poorly timed, coming immediately ahead of the summer doldrums.

Also, if you look at the low and high end of our price ranges, you’ll see that there is a mix of pre- and post-increase pricing.

On hot-rolled, for example, people buying ~1,000 tons might still be getting numbers in the low $800s per ton, the low end of our range. Those buying hundreds of tons might be in the mid/upper $800s per ton, our average price. And those buying truckload quantities might be $900/ton or higher, the high end of our range.

It’s a similar story for galvanized, for example, where the low end of our range is in the $900s per ton while the higher end, nearly $1,100 per ton, reflects post-increase pricing.

One hindrance to the increases sticking might be that large buyers, those able to place 10,000 tons or more, are still able to buy around $800 per ton, perhaps lower if they’re close to a port and can leverage an import offer.

And some of you have told me that certain mills and service centers have continued to cut deals over the last week, perhaps in a bid to boost second-quarter results. That’s not a great practice in my opinion. But it might explain some of that discounting. It also means that discounting should soon end.

Finally, I’m told that certain service centers are matching post-increase mill pricing, and that some buyers would rather place orders with them rather than with mills if the price point is about the same.  


Imports have been effectively setting what the “big buyer” price is. We’ve been writing about how import offers continue to move lower on economic weakness in Europe and Asia, notably in China. But might import prices finally have hit a bottom?

I’m not going to make that call. That said, I do want to flag this: I was told today that offers from South Korean HRC are around $800 per ton for delivery to Houston in October. That’s up modestly from offers that had been available as recently as 1-2 weeks ago in the high $700s per ton for delivery to Houston in September. If South Korean HRC is indeed around $800 per ton, why would US mills go below that level?

The US price tends to soar above prices in the rest of the world and then, for brief periods, fall below the rest of the world. But I don’t see that happening now, especially with service center inventories trending lower than they were in 2022.

The only missing piece is lead times extending. We didn’t pick up on that in our steel market survey last week. Perhaps we’ll see that in our check of the market next week.

SMU Steel Market Survey

We will be sending out our steel market survey as usual on July 3. We typically update our prices on Tuesday. But because Independence Day falls on a Tuesday, we will update our prices next week on Wednesday, July 5.

Let us know if you have any questions or if you’d like to participate in our survey. You can reach us at

In the meantime, thanks to all of you from all of us at SMU for your continued support!

By Michael Cowden,

Michael Cowden

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