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US HRC prices near $750/st as mills hold to higher offers

Pittsburgh — US hot-rolled coil pricing continued to approach $750/st Wednesday asmost mills were heard to be holding the line on higher asking prices,according to market feedback.

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The daily Platts TSI US HRC assessment was calculated at $749.50/st, up75 cents from Tuesday. The last time HRC prices hit $750/st was in June 2011. "Mills seem even more firm this week; nothing under $750/st," a servicecenter source said.

A buy-side source said he was currently paying $750/st for HRC and wasexpecting mills to try to push pricing higher.

"I give it another week before the next move," he said.

With at least one mill quoting new orders as high as $760/st, the firstservice center source said it may open the door for other mills to move offersup. A mill source said he was currently quoting $750/st for new HRC spotorders but was getting some push back from customers.

A second service center source said he was still seeing HRC around$740/st this week, but he did receive one new quote at $750/st Tuesday. Millshave not indicated that they will be announcing another increase, he said, butadded that he would not be surprised if the mills were to make a move to raiseprices again. US mills have announced five price increases on sheet productssince October.

"It appears from a very early read that imports may be down for February,below December and January levels," he said. "If so, I think that providessome cover for another potential increase."

February import licenses for hot-rolled coil and cold-rolled coil were at58,703 mt and 48,054 mt, respectively, as of February 13, according to datafrom the Department of Commerce. This compares with final January importlicenses of 180,707 mt for HRC and 139,296 mt for CRC. Hot-dipped galvanizedsheet import licenses for February were at 78,899 mt as of Tuesday, comparedwith January's final license count of 209,185 mt.

However, several buyers noted that while spot prices have been on therise they have been more heavily reliant on contract buying. CRC and galvsubstrate pricing also has not increased at the same velocity as HRC, leavingthose products as the weaker links in the price rally.

A service center source said he was seeing all CRC offers now above$860/st, but the range of asking prices remains wide. Sources put currentpricing CRC between $860-$880/st, however, mills have reported recenttransactions above $900/st.

The daily Platts TSI US CRC assessment was calculated at $872.75/stWednesday, down $8 from Tuesday.

The combined Platts TSI price index uses a volume-weighted averagecalculation -- according to TSI's standard -- to determine value on anex-works Indiana basis.

--Justine Coyne,

--Edited by Derek Sands,