International Steel Prices

US HR premium widens on lower offshore tags

Written by David Schollaert

US hot-rolled (HR) coil has become gradually more expensive than offshore hot band in recent weeks, as stateside prices have stabilized while imports moved lower.

Recall that the premium US product had over imports for roughly five months all but disappeared in early March. But with US tags holding firm and offshore prices edging lower, domestic prices are again widening their gap over imports and becoming more expensive.

All told, US HRC prices are now 15.2% more expensive than imports. The premium is up from 13.3% last week, reaching its largest premium in more than two months.

In dollars-per-ton terms, US HR coil is now, on average, $127 per short ton (st) more expensive than offshore product, $16 higher week on week (w/w) on average, and well removed 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 16, unchanged 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 18, the CRU Asian HRC price was $499/st, flat 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 still theoretically $121/st more expensive than steel imported from Asia. The spread is unchanged vs. last week, but down by more than half from its seven-month high of $281/st in late December.

Italian HRC

Italian HR coil prices were down $22/st to roughly $610/st this week. Italian prices are now just $33/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 $700/st.

That means domestic HR coil is theoretically about $135/st more expensive than HR coil imported from Italy. The spread is up $22/st last week. The domestic hot band price premium over offshore product from Italy is still down $162/st from a recent high of $297/st in mid-December.

German HRC

CRU’s German HR coil price ticked down $26/st from the week before to $621/st. After adding import costs, the delivered price of German HR coil is in theory $711/st.

The result: Domestic HR coil is theoretically $124/st more expensive than HR coil imported from Germany. The spread is up $26/st w/w and still $141/st away 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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