International Steel Prices

Domestic HRC Prices Surpass Foreign Hot Band

Written by David Schollaert

US hot-rolled coil (HRC) prices are now more expensive than imported offshore product.

This comes after domestic prices moved higher for a third straight week while import prices continued to declined, according to SMU’s latest foreign vs. domestic price analysis.

HRC’s Latest Wrinkle

Domestic sheet prices have been trending up in response to Cleveland-Cliffs’ Sept. 27 price hike. Prior to that, US hot band had been on a six-month slump. The current trend could have a bit more sustaining power now that Nucor and Cliffs both set new HRC base target prices of $800 per ton ($40 per cwt) on Oct. 19.

This week, US HRC tags increased by $30 per ton ($1.50 per cwt) from the week prior to $725 per ton. Prices have now increased by $80 per ton since falling to their lowest point of the year, $645 per ton, in late September.

Import prices, in contrast, have been largely trending downward since late April. The result: Imported product is now approximately 4% cheaper than domestic material once freight and other costs are accounted for. That’s a shift from just three weeks ago when imports were nearly 11% more expensive.


This is how SMU calculates the theoretical spread between domestic HRC prices (FOB domestic mills) and foreign HRC prices (delivered to US ports): We compare SMU’s 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, don’t hesitate to get in touch with

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

As of Thursday, Oct. 19, the CRU Asian HRC price was $503 per ton, down $5 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 $719 per ton. The latest SMU hot rolled average for domestic material is $725 per ton.

The result: US-produced HRC is now theoretically $6 per ton more expensive than steel imported from Asia.

Italian Hot-Rolled Coil

Italian HRC prices slipped another $4 per ton this week to roughly $577 per ton. They are also down $64 per ton over the past month. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is in theory $667 per ton.

That means domestic HRC is now theoretically $52 per ton more expensive than HRC imported from Italy. That’s more than a $100-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 decreased $8 per ton WoW to $611 per ton. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is in theory $701 per ton. The result: Domestic HRC is now theoretically $24 per ton more expensive 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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