US hot-rolled coil (HRC) continues to be a better deal than foreign coil.
That’s because US prices fell more than those overseas this week, according to SMU’s latest foreign vs. domestic price analysis.
The Big Picture
Domestic HRC prices have fallen since peaking in mid-April. Foreign prices have decreased too. But domestic declines have outpaced those abroad.
Case in point: US tags have fallen by $245 per ton ($12.25 per cwt) since mid-July. Offshore price slipped just $42 per ton on average over the same period.
The result: Imported product is now more than 10% more expensive than domestic material once freight and other costs are accounted for. That’s a big change from earlier this year, when US HRC was as much as 23% more expensive than imported HRC.
SMU’s price for domestic HRC stands of $645 per short ton on average this week, down $15 per ton from last week. US HRC prices have fallen to their lowest level since early December 2022, according to our pricing tool. They are also down $515 per ton since peaking this year at $1,160 per ton in April.
This is how SMU calculate the theoretical spread between foreign HRC prices (delivered to US ports) and domestic HRC prices (FOB domestic mills): We compare the SMU US HRC weekly index to the CRU HRC weekly indices for Germany, Italy, and East and Southeast Asian ports. This is only a theoretical calculation. Import costs can vary greatly, influencing the true market spread.
We add $90 per ton to all foreign prices as a rough means of accounting for freight costs, handling, and trader margin. This gives us 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, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Asian Hot-Rolled Coil (East and Southeast Asian Ports)
As of Thursday, Sept. 28, the CRU Asian HRC price was $513 per ton, down $4 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 $731 per ton. The latest SMU hot rolled average for domestic material is $645 per ton.
The result: US-produced HRC is now theoretically $86 per ton cheaper than steel imported from Asia.
Italian Hot-Rolled Coil
Italian HRC prices fell $17 per ton this week to roughly $602 per ton. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is in theory $692 per ton.
That means domestic HRC is now theoretically $47 per ton cheaper than HRC imported from Italy. That’s a big difference from late March, when US prices were $260 per ton more expensive than prices for Italian hot band.
German Hot-Rolled Coil
CRU’s German HRC prices fell $8 per ton WoW to $623 per ton. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is in theory $713 per ton. The result: Domestic HRC is now theoretically $68 per ton cheaper than HRC imported from Germany.
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 SchollaertRead more from David Schollaert
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