International Steel Prices

US HRC remains more than $250/ton more expensive than imports

Written by David Schollaert

US hot-rolled coil (HRC) prices might have plateaued. But while prices for offshore product have increased in some regions, imports remain significantly cheaper that domestic material.

All told, US prices are roughly 26% more expensive than imports, a premium that is down only slightly from last week.

US HRC tags remain at $1,040 per ton on average based on SMU’s latest check of the market on Tuesday, Dec. 19. That’s sideways from the week before. But it is still up $395 per ton from the lowest point of the year, $645 per ton in late September – a time when domestic prices were cheaper than offshore tags.


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 contact the author at

Asian HRC (East and Southeast Asian ports)

As of Thursday, Dec. 21, 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 remains at a seven-month high.

Italian HRC

Italian HRC prices were up $19 per ton to roughly $672 per ton. Despite the recent gain, Italian prices are up just $37 per ton over the past month vs. a $105-per-ton increase in the US. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is in theory $762 per ton.

That means domestic HRC is theoretically $278 per ton more expensive than HRC imported from Italy. The spread is down from $297 per ton the week prior. But it nonetheless represents a $325-per-ton swing from late September, when US HRC prices were $47 per ton cheaper than those for Italian hot band.

German HRC

CRU’s German HRC prices increased by $23 per ton week over week to $708 per ton. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is in theory $798 per ton.

The result: Domestic HRC is theoretically $242 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, Section 232 tariffs no longer applied 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 prices from other countries. We do not include any antidumping (AD) or countervailing duties (CVD) in this analysis.

David Schollaert

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