International Steel Prices

US HR prices slip, though still more expensive than imports

Written by David Schollaert

US hot-rolled (HR) coil has become increasingly more expensive than offshore hot band as stateside prices have moved higher at a sharper pace vs. imports.

Recall that the premium domestic product had over imports for roughly five months virtually dissipated in early March. But with US tags higher – even with a slight correction week on week (w/w) – and offshore prices still easing, stateside tags have gradually become more expensive.

US HR prices were roughly steady over the last week. That’s in part because Nucor’s introductory spot price at $830/short ton (st) might have temporarily stalled momentum in March stemming from a Cliffs’ price increase and expectations that other mills would follow.

All told, US HRC prices are now 13.3% more expensive than imports. The premium is down from 14.4% last week but still up from a low of just 4.9% less than a month ago.

In dollars-per-ton terms, US HR coil is now, on average, $111/st more expensive than offshore product, $11 lower w/w on average, though still up from a low premium of $40/st in early March.

This week, domestic HR coil tags were $835/st on average based on SMU’s latest check of the market on Tuesday, April 9, down $10/st w/w.


This is how SMU calculates the theoretical spread between domestic HR coil prices (FOB domestic mills) and foreign HR coil prices (delivered to US ports): We compare SMU’s US HR coil weekly index to the CRU HR coil 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/st 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 HR coil price. Buyers should use our $90/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, April 11, the CRU Asian HRC price was $499/st, up $5/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 $714/st. The latest SMU hot rolled average for domestic material is $835/st.

The result: US-produced HRC is theoretically $121/st more expensive than steel imported from Asia. The spread is down $16/st vs. last week, and still far from a seven-month high of $281/st in late December.

Italian HRC

Italian HR coil prices were up $2/st to roughly $632/st this week. Italian prices are now $55/st away from a recent bottom of $577/st last October. After adding import costs, the delivered price of Italian HR coil is in theory $722/st.

That means domestic HR coil is theoretically about $113/st more expensive than HR coil imported from Italy. The spread is down $12/st last week. The domestic hot band price premium over offshore product from Italy is still down $184/st from a recent high of $297/st in mid-December.

German HRC

CRU’s German HR coil price ticked down $5/st from the week before to $647/st. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HR coil is in theory $737/st.

The result: Domestic HR coil is theoretically $98/st more expensive than HR coil imported from Germany. The spread is down $5/st w/w and still down $167/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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