[ferro-alloys.com]Pricing in the US flat-rolled steel market continued to hold Wednesday, with expectations that the stability could remain in place through the end of the month, sources say.
The daily Platts TSI US hot-rolled coil assessment was calculated at $881/st Wednesday, down 25 cents from Tuesday, while the daily Platts TSI US cold-rolled coil assessment was calculated at $1,011.50/st, unchanged from Tuesday.
Market participants said the lingering uncertainty around the US' Section 232 tariffs on steel imports continues to keep spot buying relatively light.
The US has said it has reached "agreements in principle" with Argentina, Australia and Brazil on alternative arrangements to the 25% tariff on steel imports implemented in March, but none of the agreements have been made public. The temporary exemptions granted to those countries expire June 1.
"It's all still really fluid at this point," a US service center said of the tariff exemptions.
He said there is some concern among producers in Canada that they may be subject to the 25% tariff. Canada and Mexico are also operating under a temporary exemption to the tariffs as the two countries continue negotiations with the US regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement. Current HRC offers to the US from Canada are around $865/st FOB, he said.
"Everybody is waiting until June 1 to see what direction the market may be going in," the service center source said. He put current spot offers from domestic HRC producers at $900-$930/st, depending on the mill, for smaller volume transactions. Large buyers could likely purchase HRC at $880-$890/st, he said.
The spot market remains quiet, an HRC buyer said, adding he is relying on contract purchases in an attempt to avoid the spot market. He put current spot offers at $900/st from one US integrated producer.
Extended lead times and issues with late deliveries are also contributing to uncertainty in the market, he said.
A mill source said he sees the current market as being relatively stable.
"I think some customers are concerned because when we get into periods of stability, generally we're not good at keeping it that way," he said, noting that some service centers customers have mentioned they were seeing some softness in CRC and hot-dipped galvanized prices.
"I think in some cases, some of the offers that were out there were too high, but I don't see prices sliding overall," he said. "I think the buying community has done a great job not to get too panicked. People bought as little as possible and I think that helped to keep prices stable. We're left with a decent market today so I don't see things heading down immediately."
There were some rumblings in the market this week that mills could try to push through another price increase, however some participants said they expected any moves to come after the June 1 tariff deadline.
Additionally, the service center source said he does not expect lead times at US mills to extend much further than their current level, which could put a cap on how much mills are able to ramp prices up.
Current HRC lead times at domestic mills are at an average of 6.9 weeks, up from 6.7 weeks on May 9, according to S&P Global Platts data. Average CRC lead times were stable week on week at 8 weeks, while average hot-dip galvanized sheet lead times rose to 9.4 weeks, up from 8.7 weeks on May 9.
The combined Platts TSI price index uses a volume-weighted average calculation -- according to TSI's standard -- to determine value on an ex-works Indiana basis.