International Steel Prices

US HRC prices maintain marginal gap over offshore imports

Written by David Schollaert

US hot-rolled coil (HRC) remains more expensive than offshore hot band, even as domestic prices remain under pressure. The premium domestic product had over imports for roughly five months now remains near parity as tags abroad and stateside inch down.

US HRC tags have paused their descent in response to a recent blitz of mill price notices. Despite the apparent lull, the eight-week price cut on US tags erased a $300-per-short-ton (st) gap they had over imported HRC roughly two months ago.

All told, US HRC prices are now 6% more expensive than imports. The premium is up slightly from 4.9% in last week’s analysis but off from a high of 27% just a little over two months ago. It’s still one of the smallest margins since early October.

In dollar-per-ton terms, US HRC is now on average just $49/st more expensive than offshore product, $9 higher week on week (w/w) on average, and off by $232/st from an average premium of $281/st just about a month ago.

This week, domestic HRC tags were $815/st on average based on SMU’s latest check of the market on Tuesday, March 12. While US prices were flat w/w, they remain 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, March 14, the CRU Asian HRC price was $517/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 $736/st. The latest SMU hot rolled average for domestic material is $815/st.

The result: US-produced HRC is theoretically $79/st more expensive than steel imported from Asia. The spread is up $12/st vs. last week, but still up $202/st from a seven-month high of $281/st in late December.

Italian HRC

Italian HRC prices were down $12/st to roughly $681/st this week. Despite that decline, Italian prices are still up $104/st from a recent bottom of $577/st last October. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HRC is in theory $771/st.

That means domestic HRC is theoretically about $44/st more expensive than HRC imported from Italy. The spread is up $13/st last week. The domestic hot band price premium over offshore product from Italy is down $253/st from a recent high of $297/st in mid-December.

German HRC

CRU’s German HRC price also ticked down just $2/st vs. the week before, to $702/st. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HRC is in theory $7942st.

The result: Domestic HRC is theoretically $23/st more expensive than HRC imported from Germany. The spread is up $2/st w/w but down $242/st from 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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