International Steel Prices

US HRC now nearly $300/ton more expensive than imports

Written by David Schollaert

US hot-rolled coil (HRC) prices continued their upward movement this week, distinctly outpacing increases for offshore product once again. Domestic tags are now 27% more expensive than imports – the widest pricing gap in nearly two years.

Domestic HRC tags, now on an 11-week run, have increased repeatedly since Sept. 27. Comparatively, imports have been on just a six-week rally, and the gains have been a fraction of the increases seen in the US, according to SMU’s latest foreign vs. domestic price analysis.

HRC tags in the US increased to $1,040 per ton on average based on SMU’s latest check of the market on Tuesday, Dec. 12. That’s up $20 per ton from the week before and a jump of $395 per ton from the lowest point of the year, $645 per ton in late September.

Import prices, in contrast, were on a downward trend from late April. They started to increase only over the past six weeks. The result: Imported product is now 27% cheaper than domestic material once freight and other costs are accounted for. That’s up from 25.9% a week earlier and a shift from late September, when imports were nearly 11% more expensive than US product.


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, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with

Asian HRC (East and Southeast Asian ports)

As of Thursday, Dec. 14, the CRU Asian HRC price was $535 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 $759 per ton. The latest SMU hot rolled average for domestic material is $1,040 per ton.

The result: US-produced HRC is theoretically $281 per ton more expensive than steel imported from Asia. The spread is now at a seven-month high.

Italian HRC

Italian HRC prices were largely sideways vs. last week, up just $4 per ton to roughly $653 per ton. They are now up just $50 per ton over the past month vs. a $105-per-ton jump in the US. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is in theory $743 per ton.

That means domestic HRC is theoretically $297 per ton more expensive than HRC imported from Italy. The spread hasn’t been that high since late January 2022. The current price gap is also a $344-per-ton swing from late September when US prices were $49 per ton cheaper than prices for Italian hot band.

German HRC

CRU’s German HRC prices increased by just $7 per ton week over week (WoW) to $685 per ton. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is in theory $775 per ton.

The result: Domestic HRC is theoretically $265 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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