Steel Products Prices North America

Apparent Steel Supply Remains Muted in May

Written by Brett Linton

U.S apparent steel supply rose slightly in May to 6.61 million net tons, according to recent U.S. Department of Commerce and American Iron and Steel Institute data. This is the second lowest supply level in our limited 10-year history, just behind the April 2020 figure of 6.54 million tons. Apparent steel supply, a proxy for demand, is determined by combining domestic steel shipments and finished U.S. steel imports, then deducting total U.S. steel exports.

May apparent supply was down 2.77 million tons (29.6 percent) compared to the same month one year ago, when apparent supply was 9.39 million tons. This change was primarily due to a 2.68 million ton decline in domestic shipments and a 371,000 ton decrease in finished imports, while a 277,000 ton decline in total exports slightly lessened the overall decrease in apparent supply.

The net trade balance between U.S. steel imports and exports was a surplus of 1.45 million tons imported in May, down 38.9 percent from the prior month, but up 0.3 percent from one year ago. Finished steel imports accounted for 22.8 percent of apparent steel supply in May, up from 20.2 percent in April and up from 20.0 percent one year ago.

Compared to the prior month when apparent steel supply was 6.54 million tons, May supply rose 70,000 tons or 1.1 percent. While supply remained relatively flat overall, there was a 181,000 ton increase in finished imports, a 161,000 ton decrease in domestic shipments, and a 51,000 ton decline in total exports.

The figure below shows year-to-date averages for each statistic over the last five years. 2020 apparent supply remains down compared to the first five months of all previous years shown.

To see an interactive graphic of our Apparent Steel Supply history, visit the Apparent Steel Supply page in the Analysis section of the SMU website. If you need any assistance logging in or navigating the website, contact us at or 800-432-3475.

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