Republic Steel Corp. led the way today in announcing long-expected price increases on steel used in a wide range of consumer goods.
The federal Council on Wage and Price Stability immediately called the rise "excessive" and said it would investigate Republic's move even though it does not have the power to force a rollback.
Other major steel producers, who have long complained of underpriced products and rising costs, said they were studying the increase.
"We all need it," said an official at one steel firm.
Republic, the nation's fourth-largest steelmaker, said the price of flat-rolled products would go up an average of 8.8 per cent, while the price of hot-rolled and cold-finished carbon and alloy bar products would be increase and average of 6.8 per cent, effective, May 15.
Flat-rolled steel is used mainly in auto bodies, appliances and office furniture such as filing cabinets, and accounts for nearly half of the industry's shipments. Bar products are used in machinery, tools and forgings and make up about 16 per cent of the steel market.
"Rapidly rising costs make an increase at this time imperative," said Republic President W. J. DeLancey.
A government spokesman said in Washington that the price council thinks the industry needs some relief "but this seems too high."
Imported steel is selling in the United States for about $50 per ton less than domestic steel and "you can draw your own conclusion from that," he said.
A Republic spokesman said the company notified "the appropriate people" in the Carter administration about the price move before it was announced publicly.
Meanwhile, Armco Steel Corp. and Universal Cyclops Specialty Steel announced increases averaging 8 per cent on stainless steel products today following the lead Monday of Allegheny-Ludlum.
Armco also produces flat-rolled steel, but the company did not disclose price action on that product line.
Steel industry insiders have been waiting for a price move for several months, especially after a severe winter that disrupted production and had a dismal effect on first-quarter earnings.
On the nine largest producers, five reported losses. Republic was one of them with a loss of $6 million.
"You can see the impetus as quite strong for us to take corrective steps," a company spokesman said.
Meanwhile in Washington Treasury Department announced a temporary procedure to govern imports of some ferrochrome and specialty steel products into the United States, even though they contain Rhodesian Chrome.
A department statement said the temporary rules, which will be in effect through June 13, are aimed at phasing out the import of Rhodesian chrome, as mandated by Congress March 18.
The temporary procedure will permit the entry on or before June 18 of certain ferrochrome and specialty steel mill products on a case-by-case basis of:
The Treasury receives a certificate from the producer that the products were in shipment or in inventory for shipment to the United States on March 18, or.
The producing country certifies to the treasury that under its law enforcing the United Nations sanctions against Rhodesia, the products do not contain chromium of Rhodesian origin.