Steel Products Prices North America

SIMA: Rolled Steel Imports Up in April

Written by Peter Wright

Total rolled steel product imports in April were the highest since last June and semi-finished imports were the highest since October 2014 as offshore mills hurried to ship steel ahead of the tariffs that were expected to take effect May 1.

Total rolled steel product imports in April were up by 17.0 percent from March’s volume. As a three-month moving average (3MMA), they were up by 8.4 percent. Sheet products were up by 19.6 percent and 6.5 percent on the same basis, according to Steel Market Update’s analysis of Federal Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) data.

Beginning in January 2018, we have expanded this import analysis to include all major steel sectors: sheet, plate, longs and tubulars, with a total of 18 subsectors, and we now publish an import market share analysis for the same 18 steel product groups. Together, these two reports should give an accurate view of the effect of the Section 232 trade legislation. See the end of this piece for an explanation of the methodology. All volumes in this analysis are reported in short tons. We use three-month moving averages rather than single-month results to smooth out the variability.

Figure 1 shows the tonnage of total rolled steel and semi-finished imports through April on a 3MMA basis. The 3MMA of total rolled product import volume in July 2017 was 2,722,567 tons, the highest since May 2015. Imports declined every month on this basis through February 2018 when they reached 1,977,871 tons. This was the first time to dip below two million tons since May 2016. The 3MMA of rolled product imports increased in March and April to 2,175,838 and 2,357,934 tons, respectively. Semi-finished imports increased in March and April from February’s very low volume to the highest level since December 2014. On a 3MMA basis, the import volume of semis was the highest since August last year. The current three-month analysis includes the very low February number; therefore, we can expect this measure to surge in May. 

There are three tables in this report. In each of them, we show the 3MMA of the tonnage in April 2018 and 2017 with the year-over-year change. We then calculate the percentage change in volume in the most recent three months with the previous three months. This month we are comparing February/March/April with November/December/January (3M/3M). The next column to the right shows the year-over-year change as a percentage. Declines are color coded green and increases are coded red. Finally, in the far-right column, we subtract the 12-month change from the three-month change. This is a way of describing the magnitude of the recent trend as a percentage. In many cases, the color code of the trend can be the opposite of the two time frame analyses.

Table 1 describes the imports of all major sectors of the sheet and plate markets. In the flat rolled sectors shown in Table 1, all sheet and plate products except tin plate had increasing imports 3M/3M and only cold rolled sheet, electrogalvanized sheet and tin plate had a year-over-year decrease. Figures 2 and 3 show the history of sheet and plate product imports since January 2004. 

Table 2 shows the same analysis for long products where 3M/3M imports were up by 23.4 percent led by rebar up by 75.5 percent and heavy structurals up by 81.0 percent. Figure 4 shows the history of long product imports.

Table 3 shows that for tubular products the 3M/3M volume was up by 6.7 percent and the year-over-year volume was up by 6.2 percent. OCTG had a slight decrease 3M/3M, but mechanical tubing was up by 25.0 percent. Figure 5 shows the history of tubular imports since 2004.

Explanation: SMU publishes several import reports ranging from this very early look using license data to the very detailed analysis of final volumes by product, by district of entry and by source nation, which is available in the premium member section of our website. The early look is based on three-month moving averages using the latest license data, either the preliminary or final data for the previous month and final data for earlier months. We recognize that the license data is subject to revisions but believe that by combining it with earlier months in this way gives a reasonably accurate assessment of volume trends by product as early as possible. The main issue with the license data is that the month in which the tonnage arrives is not always the same month in which the license was recorded. In 2014, we conducted a 12-month analysis to evaluate the accuracy of the license data compared to final receipts. This analysis showed that the licensed tonnage of all carbon and low alloy products was 2.3 percent less than actual receipts, close enough to confidently include license data in this current update. The discrepancy declined continuously during the 12-month evaluation as a longer period was considered.

Statement from the Department of Commerce: The Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) system of the Department of Commerce collects and publishes data of steel mill product imports. By design, this information gives stakeholders valuable information on steel trade with the United States. This is achieved through two tools: the steel licensing program and the steel import monitor. All steel mill imports into the United States require a license issued by the SIMA office. The SIMA Licensing System is an online system for importers to register, apply for and receive licenses in a timely manner. In addition to managing the licensing system, SIMA publishes near-real-time aggregate data on steel mill imports into the United States. These data incorporate information collected from steel license applications and publicly released Census data. The data are displayed in tables and graphs for users to analyze. Additionally, SIMA provides data on U.S. steel mill exports, as well as imports and exports of select downstream steel products.

Latest in Steel Products Prices North America