International Steel Prices

Foreign and Domestic HRC Prices Near Parity

Written by David Schollaert

US hot-rolled coil (HRC) prices and those for offshore product are nearly even again.

The move comes after domestic prices moved higher for the second straight week, according to SMU’s latest foreign vs. domestic price analysis.

Present Dynamics

Domestic sheet prices rose in consecutive weeks after a six-month slump. The turn followed a price hike announced by Cleveland-Cliffs on Sept. 27. Other US mills have followed – unofficially – while prices for offshore hot band have been largely unchanged.

US tags increased by $25 per ton ($1.25 per cwt) week on week (WoW) to $695 per ton. Import prices inched up by roughly $2 per ton on average over the same period. The result: Imported product is now just about 1% more expensive than domestic material once freight and other costs are accounted for. That’s a shift from just two weeks ago when imports were nearly 11% more expensive.

Recall that US HRC prices had fallen to their lowest point of the year, $645 per ton, in late September before bottoming and rebounding.


This is how SMU calculates 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

Asian Hot-Rolled Coil (East and Southeast Asian Ports)

As of Thursday, Oct. 12, the CRU Asian HRC price was $508 per ton, unchanged from the prior week. Adding a 25% tariff and $90 per ton in estimated import costs, the delivered price of Asian HRC to the US is approximately $725 per ton. The latest SMU hot rolled average for domestic material is $695 per ton.

The result: US-produced HRC is now theoretically $30 per ton cheaper than steel imported from Asia.

Italian Hot-Rolled Coil

Italian HRC prices slipped $2 per ton this week to roughly $581 per ton. They are also down $61 per ton over the past month. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is in theory $671 per ton.

That means domestic HRC is now theoretically $24 per ton more expensive than HRC imported from Italy. That’s more than a $70-per-ton swing from late September, when US prices were $49 per ton cheaper than prices for Italian hot band.

German Hot-Rolled Coil

CRU’s German HRC prices increased $8 per ton WoW to $619 per ton. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is in theory $709 per ton. The result: Domestic HRC is now theoretically just $14 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 Schollaert

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