International Steel Prices

US HRC is just $77/st more expensive than imports

Written by David Schollaert

The premium US hot-rolled coil (HRC) held over offshore product is disappearing in a hurry. Domestic hot band prices continue to fall at a fast clip, erasing a nearly $300/st gap they had over imported HRC just two months ago.

All told, US HRC prices are now 8.8% more expensive than imports. The premium is down from 13.9% in last week’s analysis and down from a high of 27% just eight weeks ago. Its also the smallest margin since early October.

In dollar-per-ton terms, US HRC is now on average just $77 per short ton (st) more expensive than offshore product, down $54 w/w on average and off more than $200/st from an average premium of $281/st a month ago.

This week, domestic HRC tags were $875/st on average based on SMU’s latest check of the market on Tuesday, Feb. 20. US prices are now at their lowest level since early November.


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 short 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-st 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 get in touch with the author at

Asian HRC (East and Southeast Asian ports)

As of Thursday, Feb. 22, the CRU Asian HRC price was $535/st, down $9/st vs. the prior week. Adding a 25% tariff and $90/st in estimated import costs, the delivered price of Asian HRC to the US is approximately $759/st. The latest SMU hot rolled average for domestic material is $875/st.

The result: US-produced HRC is theoretically $116/st more expensive than steel imported from Asia. The spread is down $54/st vs. last week, and down $165/st from a seven-month high of $281/st in late December.

Italian HRC

Italian HRC prices were down $9/st to roughly $720/st this week. Despite that decline, Italian prices are still up $141/st from a recent bottom of $577/st last October. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is in theory $810/st.

That means domestic HRC is theoretically just $65/st more expensive than HRC imported from Italy. The spread is down from $121/st last week. The domestic hot band price premium over offshore product from Italy is down $232/st from a recent high of $297/st in mid-December.

German HRC

CRU’s German HRC price ticked down $13/st vs. the week prior to $735/st. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is in theory $825/st.

The result: Domestic HRC is theoretically a mere $50/st more expensive than HRC imported from Germany. The spread is now $215/st below 2023’s widest spread of $265/st.

Figure 4 compares all four price indices. The chart on the right zooms in to highlight the difference in more recent pricing.

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 apply 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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