Steel Products Prices North America

Imports Slowly Sliding as US DOC Releases May Preliminary Census Data

Written by John Packard

Total steel imports, based on the just released Preliminary Census Data out of the US Department of Commerce, slide lower for the 4th month in a row. May imports are now being referenced as being 3,374,427 net tons (3.065 million metric tons) and we expect Final Census numbers to be very close to this 3.374 million ton number when they are released late next week or early the following week (due to 4th of July Holiday).

January was the biggest month for imports this year and the largest number since October 2014. January imports totaled 4.4 million net tons (3.985 million metric tons) the second highest tonnage seen for foreign steel imports going back to 1997 (October 2014 was the highest with an additional 48,000 net tons more than January 2015).

We saw imports begin to slide in February (3.7 million net tons), March (3.6 million net tons), April (3.5 million net tons) and now May at 3.374 million net tons. It appears the tonnage is being reduced by approximately 100,000 net tons per month.  June license data is suggesting that trend will continue or possibly be a little larger (up to 200,000 net tons lower than the prior month).

The AIIS in their press release reported, “Notwithstanding the recent decreases, total imports from January to May of 18.47 million net tons were 5.5 percent higher than they were through the first five months of 2014. The leading seller of steel to the United States this year has been Brazil, at 3.84 million net tons, more than double the amount from a year earlier. Aggregate imports from Canada increased 16 percent to 2.85 million net tons year-to-date, and imports from South Korea grew 3.8 percent to 2.23 million net tons. Turkey has increased its steel sales to the United States this year by nearly 90 percent to 1.44 million net tons, while China’s sales have grown 3.8 percent to 1.34 million net tons, and Japan’s have swelled 9.4 percent to 1.19 million net tons. Imports from the European Union, meanwhile, are down 9.4 percent on the year to 2.38 million net tons, while imports from Mexico have declined 15.9 percent to 1.2 million net tons.”

Here is how the month of May compares by product:

SMU Note: We talk about license requests and Census data all the time. We thought you might appreciate what the license data said regarding the month of May imports. There were 3,522,000 net tons of license requests for the month of May. The 3.374 million ton Preliminary Census number is about 150,000 tons lower than what we saw as the month progressed. We normally take a conservative approach and forecast the projected license number minus approximately 200,000 tons.

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