US steel imports fall to six-month low in October

Steel imports into the USA in October fell to the lowest level in six months on the back of major declines in semi-finished material and plate products.

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Steel arriving at US ports fell 2.4% to 2.3 million tonnes from nearly 2.4 million tonnes in September, according to data released on Tuesday, November 27 by the US Census Bureau.

Major declines under carbon and alloy were logged in semi-finished material, which fell 20.7% to 420,907 tonnes. Cut-to-length plate also slid 12.3% to 93,561 tonnes, while plate in coils posted an 11.2% fall to 87,847 tonnes.

Meanwhile, gains were seen in heavy structural shapes, which rose 55.4% to 54,025 tonnes in preliminary October data compared to the month prior.

That figure is also 77.1% higher than the October 2011 tally of 30,509 tonnes. Rebar imports were also up 27% in October compared to September, tallying 53,247 tonnes.

Imports of hot-dipped galvanized moved up 11.7% due to large tonnages from India. Imports of cold-rolled coil increased 7.2% due to large tonnages from China.

By country, imports from Canada and Mexico fell by a combined 6.2% to 597,961 tonnes. Imports from China jumped 14.8%, imports from South Korea moved up 15.6% and imports from Japan saw a 25.7%. increase in October.

“We believe the pickup in imports from Asia is a result of overcapacity from China and Korea spilling into the region, resulting in more steel shipped to the still most open US market,” Steel Market Intelligence managing partner Michelle Applebaum said in a research note.

Steel license applications through November 27 show imports poised to hit 2.1 million tonnes, although Applebaum noted that the final figures could be lower due to pricing pressure.

“Based on current November import licenses, we expect to see a small drop in actual November imports, as steel pricing declines that started in September … are likely to keep imports at low levels through year-end,” she said.