Prices in the United States for domestically produced hollow structural sections increased this past week while market participants digested a late flurry of price hikes by three producers.Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment for steel hollow sections ASTM A500 Grade B domestic, fob mill US was $2,050-2,100 per short ton ($102.50-105.00 per hundredweight) on Thursday June 10, up by 4.40% from $1,975-2,000 per short ton the previous week.
Welded Tube of Canada was the first to inform customers of its $160-per-ton increase in hollow sections and mechanical pipe prices on June 8.
It was followed by similar moves by St Louis-based Bull Moose Tube and Kansas City, Missouri-based ExlTube on June 9.
The subsequent questions among most market sources on Thursday were: Will Atlas Tube or Nucor Tubular follow suit? And, if so, will it be for the same amount of $160 per ton?
An increase of “$۱۶۰ [per ton] is kind of a big jump at this stage of the game, but if everyone announces it everyone will follow,” a northern distributor said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we had maybe one of the larger mills come back and say, eh, maybe a little aggressive and we’re only going to do $100-125 [per ton], something more in line with what price increases have been. But if they don’t, and if they follow the full amount, it will go through.”
Regardless, the momentum and hollow sections indicators remain bullish for the near team, several sources said.
“The market is still strong,” an East Coast distributor source said. “Customers need material and will pay to get it. I really don’t see this slowing anytime soon, certainly not within the next three months. I think we’ll be at S130 per cwt [$2,600 per ton] by Labor Day, the way I’m reading the market demand.”
It’s a prediction that is largely dependent on continued increases being seen in the hot-rolled coil market, but even if a stabilization in HRC occurs most market sources agree demand for hollow sections is strong enough to maintain current pricing.
Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US was calculated at an all-time high $83.78 per cwt ($1,675.60 per ton) on Thursday, up by 3.14% from $81.23 per cwt the previous week.
So far in 2021, HRC prices have increased by 62.02% from $51.71 per cwt on January 4. During the same timeframe, hollow sections prices have risen by an almost identical 62.11% to the current midpoint of $2,075 per ton from $1,280 per ton at the start of the year.
If the same pattern holds true, and the eastern distributor source is correct in his $2,600-per-ton hollow sections prognostication, it infers that HRC prices will climb to $105 per cwt by early September – both up by approximately 103% since the start of the year.
As for a year-on-year comparison, hollow sections have increased by 150.00% over the past year from $800-860 per short ton on June 11, 2020, and trended downward to a 2020 low of $700-740 per ton on August 20 of that year.
During the same timeframe, HRC has climbed by 222.23% from $26 per cwt on June 10, 2020.
“Tubers need to make money too,” an East Coast producer source said.
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