Several U.S. steel producers raised prices on Wednesday, following reports that United States Steel Corp had boosted its own spot prices on Tuesday.
AK Steel Holding Corp announced its increase in a release on Wednesday morning. Nucor Corp was one of several other producers to match U.S. Steel's $50 per short ton increase, Steel Market Intelligence wrote in a note to clients.
But a New York-based steel trader said demand was relatively weak, and it would be tough to get higher prices to stick even if, as some expect, scrap metal prices rise.
"I am sure there are going to be a few people that need to buy and will accept the increase. But those who have some room are not going to accept the full $50 price increase," said the trader.
Hot-rolled coil prices, as estimated by The Steel Index, which collects data on the market, have fallen 4.6 percent this year to date, to $615.
Michelle Applebaum, chief analyst with newsletter, Steel Market Intelligence, said the price of scrap - a key raw material used by many U.S. steelmakers - is expected to rise in March, and that may support steel prices somewhat.
"We think mills will achieve at least partial success as many buyers are trained to look at scrap prices as a gauge of future steel prices," she wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.
Dahlman Rose analyst Anthony Rizzuto said the increases should at least keep steel prices in the broader market from falling in the short term.
"The last time U.S. Steel was the first to move was in mid-October, when prices were in free fall," he wrote in a note to clients. "The move effectively marked the bottom, and list prices moved higher almost immediately."
Citing an internal memo, newsletter Steel Market Update said U.S. Steel had raised its base prices for all flat-rolled steel by at least $50 a short ton.
Smaller rival AK Steel said its base prices for carbon flat-rolled steel would go up at least $50 per short ton for new orders. The West Chester, Ohio-based company did not give a reason for the increase.
U.S. Steel and Nucor could not be reached for comment.
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.