Pittsburgh — Hot-rolled and cold-rolled coil prices in the US maintained their upward momentum Thursday on the back of mill announcements earlier in the week as spot availability was tighter and new quotes firmed.
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Platts increased its daily HRC and CRC assessments to $400-$410/st and $520-$540/st from $390-$400/st and $520-$530/st, respectively. New mill quotes have been heard higher but transactions at those levels could not be verified. Both prices are normalized to a Midwest (Indiana) ex-works basis.
So far, four of the domestic US mills have announced $20-$30/st for flat-rolled pricing, while others were heard to have pushed prices higher internally. Multiple buy-side sources indicated new HRC quotes were firm across the board at $400/st and above.
A service center source said he had not heard of any mills "cutting deals" and HRC "while undoubtedly the least strong [product] isn't really weak either." On the demand side, he said inventories seem to be leaning out quickly and their "trading division is busier than they have been in almost a year."
One mill source said he had indications a competitor was now at $420/st for HRC and a compilation of mill lead times showed strength on CRC and coated products extending two to three weeks at a time. The "market is moving harder than anyone will give it credit for," he said and indicated prices were now above the previous Platts' assessments.
A buy-side source said mills are $400/st and above right now on HRC, while one mill was "the most realistic" with its expectations following the latest increases of eventually getting HRC to $410-$430/st and CRC & coated between $530-$550/st.
Booking cold-rolled and coated at a base of $520/st "shouldn't be an issue" as prices continued to move up.
Some larger mill customers have committed to 2016 contract business, he said, adding that mills were now looking to drive up spot pricing for the small and medium-sized buyers in order to increase contract prices.
However, he said this upswing in prices has not been "demand driven" as mills are "creating a bit of havoc internally" on the supply side. "I can't see it lasting for a long time," he added.
Two other sources also expressed skepticism regarding how long the momentum can last. One source anticipated pricing to run into issues around mid-February, while the second said he was still "not a believer."