International Steel Prices

Imported HRC Tags Climbing vs. US Product

Written by David Schollaert

US hot-rolled coil (HRC) continues to drop in price relative to imported hot band. Domestic product remains a better deal than offshore HRC as US tags sink further, according to SMU’s latest foreign vs. domestic price analysis.

Domestic HRC prices have eroded for five straight months, and have been trending lower at a faster clip than offshore hot band. The premium US hot-rolled held over imported material has turned by more than 20% since early July. Imported product is now roughly 6% more expensive than domestic hot band.

Since the beginning of Q1, US HRC had been significantly more expensive than imports, peaking in mid-April. It ballooned to a 23% premium on average. Imports are now more expensive, given that US tags have fallen by $200 per ton ($10 per cwt) just since mid-July. However, offshore product is down on average just $21 per ton over the same period.

HRC tags stateside, are at an average of $690 per net ton this week, declining by $20 from the previous week. They’ve slipped to their lowest level since late December 2022. Domestic prices are now down $470 per ton since peaking this year at $1,160 per ton back in April.

Overseas prices have also been weakening since April, but declines have been less pronounced. That has caused the spread between import and domestic pricing to reverse quickly.

Domestic hot band is now 6.3% cheaper than foreign material. It was 15% more expensive just about two months ago.

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, Sept. 14, the CRU Asian HRC price was $517 per ton, unchanged 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 $736 per ton. The latest SMU hot rolled average for domestic material is $690 per ton.

Now $46 per ton cheaper, US-produced HRC has lost its parity with steel imported from Asia. And it’s trending cheaper ahead of the fourth quarter.

Italian Hot-Rolled Coil

Italian HRC prices were also unchanged week over week (WoW,), holding at $642 per ton this week. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is approximately $732 per ton.

Domestic HRC is now theoretically $42 per ton cheaper than imported Italian HRC. That is a far cry from late March, when US tags were $260 per ton more expensive than those of imported Italian hot band.

German Hot-Rolled Coil

CRU’s latest price for German HRC declined last week, down $8 per ton WoW to $643 per ton. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is roughly $733 per ton.

Domestic HRC is now theoretically $43 per ton cheaper than imported German HRC. That’s down $12 per ton WoW, and still a $276-per-ton change 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 the difference in pricing from the second quarter of this year to the present.

Notes: Freight is important 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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