International Steel Prices

US HRC Prices Near Parity With Imports, a Stark Shift from H1'23

Written by David Schollaert

The spread between US and offshore hot-rolled coil (HRC) prices continues to narrow as domestic tags decline further, according to SMU’s latest foreign vs. domestic price analysis.

US hot band had been significantly more expensive than imports for most of this year. Now, domestic prices and import prices are near parity. That’s in part because domestic prices have fallen nearly $100 per ton ($5 per cwt) since mid-July while offshore product is down on average just $5 per ton over the same period.

HRC tags stateside, at an average of $795 per net ton, declined by $15 this week from last, slipping to their lowest level since February. Domestic prices are now down $365 per ton since peaking this year at $1,160 per ton back in April.

Overseas prices have weakened since April. But the declines have been less pronounced. That has caused the spread between import and domestic pricing to tighten.

Domestic hot band is now roughly just 5% more expensive than foreign material. It was 15% more expensive just a month ago. Repeated domestic mill price hikes in early 2023 had resulted in US prices becoming nearly 23% more expensive than imports in Q1.

SMU uses the following calculation to identify the theoretical spread between foreign HRC prices (delivered to US ports) and domestic HRC prices (FOB domestic mills): Our analysis compares the SMU US HRC weekly index to the CRU HRC weekly indices for Germany, Italy, and east and southeast Asia ports. 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 HRC 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 Hot-Rolled Coil (East and Southeast Asian Ports)

As of Thursday, Aug. 10, the CRU Asian HRC price was $531 per ton, down $9 per ton from the previous week. Adding a 25% tariff and $90 per ton in estimated import costs, the delivered price of Asian HRC to the US is approximately $753 per ton. The latest SMU hot rolled average is $795 per ton.

US-produced HRC is now theoretically $42 per ton more expensive than steel imported from Asia.

Italian Hot-Rolled Coil

Italian HRC prices moved down marginally WoW, declining by $7 per ton to $659 per ton this week. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is approximately $749 per ton.

Domestic HRC is now theoretically $46 per ton more expensive than imported Italian HRC. That is a far cry from late March, when US tags were $260 per ton higher than those for Italian hot band.

German Hot-Rolled Coil

CRU’s latest German HRC price is largely unchanged, down just $1 per ton WoW to $670 per ton. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is roughly $760 per ton.

Domestic HRC is now theoretically $35 per ton more expensive than imported German HRC. That’s down $14 per ton WoW, and down $198 per ton vs. late March when German hot band was 20% cheaper than US product.

Figure 4 compares all four price indices. The chart on the right zooms in to highlight this year’s decoupling of US and offshore HRC prices.

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 dramatically impact the competitiveness of both domestic and foreign steel. It’s also important to factor in lead times. In most markets, domestic steel will deliver more quickly than foreign steel.

Effective Jan. 1, 2022, the traditional Section 232 tariff 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 the 25% Section 232 tariff on foreign prices from other countries. We do not include any antidumping (AD) or countervailing duties (CVD) in this analysis.

David Schollaert

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