Steel Products Prices North America

December Apparent Steel Supply Rises 6.4%

Written by Brett Linton

U.S. apparent steel supply rebounded significantly in December, up 6.4% to 7.79 million net tons, according to the latest U.S. Department of Commerce and American Iron and Steel Institute data. While supply levels have improved each month since May, recall that April and May were the two lowest levels seen in the last 10 years at 6.53 million tons and 6.60 million tons, respectively. December supply was down over 1 million tons compared to the same month one year prior. Apparent steel supply, a proxy for demand, is determined by combining domestic steel mill shipments and finished U.S. steel imports, then deducting total U.S. steel exports.

December apparent supply declined 11.6% compared to the same month one year ago when supply was 8.81 million tons. This change was primarily due to a 971,000-ton decline in domestic shipments, combined with a 55,000-ton increase in total exports. Finished steel imports were flat over levels one year prior.

The net trade balance between U.S. steel imports and exports was a surplus of 880,000 tons imported in December, up 25.0% from the previous month, but down 13.0% from one year prior. Finished steel imports accounted for 17.4% of apparent steel supply in December, up from 16.9% in November, and up from 15.4% one year ago.

Compared to November when apparent steel supply was 7.32 million tons, December supply increased by 465,000 tons or 6.4%. This change was due to a 296,000-ton increase in domestic shipments, a 117,000-ton increase in finished imports, and a 52,000-ton decrease in exports.

The figure below shows year-to-date averages for each statistic over the last five years. As has been the case for the last few months, 2020 apparent supply remains significantly lower compared to the monthly averages of all previous years shown.

To see an interactive graphic of our Apparent Steel Supply history (example shown below), visit the Apparent Steel Supply page in the Analysis section of the SMU website. If you need any assistance logging into or navigating the website, contact us at

By Brett Linton,

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