Steel Products Prices North America

Final August Imports Slide Near 2009 Low

Written by Brett Linton

Final Census data shows August steel imports were almost identical to the preliminary data reported last week; imports totaled 1.30 million net tons, down 52 percent over the month prior due to the quarterly reset on semifinished import quotas. August imports are at the lowest levels seen in 11 years, with the previous low occuring in September 2009 at 1.21 million tons. For the record, the lowest monthly import level in the past two decades occured in June 2009 at 862,000 tons.

Total finished imports in August were at 1.19 million tons, down 17 percent from July. Imports of semifinished products (mostly slabs) were 108,000 tons, down from 1.27 million tons the month prior.

September import licenses are now at 1.51 million tons, with 314,000 tons being semifinished and 1.20 million tons being finished products.

SMU Note: The January, July, August and October import figures are unusually high as a result of buyers seeking to max out quarterly quota limits on semifinished products. For the remainder of each quarter, final semifinished imports are significantly lower. Due to these month-to-month swings, SMU has ceased monthly import “trending” projections and now only shows unadjusted figures as reported by the Commerce Department.

As shown in the figure below, finished steel import levels are much less volitile and more accurately display the U.S. steel import trend month-to-month. September finished imports remain well below levels seen earlier this year.

The three graphics below show total steel imports through September license data. To provide the most clarity, we are only showing a limited time line in each graphic. To see a greater data history and utilize our interactive graphing features, you can visit our website. Contact us at if you have any questions.

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