Steel Products Prices North America

Preliminary Imports Slip 8% in December, January Licenses Down Another 16%

Written by Brett Linton

Preliminary Census data shows that steel imports in December fell 8% month-over-month to 2.89 million net tons, the fifth highest monthly level in 2021. January import licenses through Jan. 26 are currently at 2.42 million tons, a 16% decline from December and down 23% compared to November. Recall that September imports had reached a 28-month record-high of 3.26 million tons.

Total finished steel imports are preliminarily at 2.27 million tons in December, down 13% from the month prior when we saw a 3.5-year high. Finished steel import licenses for January are currently at 1.83 million tons, 19% below December and 29% below November.

Due to large month-to-month swings in semifinished imports, the chart below shows total monthly imports on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis in an attempt to more accurately display U.S. steel import trends. The 3MMA through preliminary December data was 2.93 million tons, down from November’s 3+ year high of 3.05 million tons. Recall that the lowest 3MMA level in SMU’s recent history was November 2020 at 1.36 million tons. Looking through the latest January license data, that 3MMA is currently at 2.82 million tons. The preliminary average for 2021 steel imports is now 2.72 million tons per month.

The table below displays flat rolled product imports as well as other high-volume products, including rebar, tin plate, wire rod, structural pipe and tube, and other long products. We also provide data on imports divided into semifinished, finished, flat rolled, longs, pipe and tube, and stainless products.

The two charts below show monthly imports grouped by product category: flat rolled imports and pipe and tube imports. Flat rolled imports slipped in December to 1.28 million tons, down 16% from November’s multi-year high of 1.54 million tons. January license data currently shows 994,000 tons of flat rolled imports coming into the country. Pipe and tube imports rose 11% to 470,000 tons in December, the second highest level in 2+ years. January pipe and tube import licenses are currently down 10% to 380,000 tons.

We have an interactive graphing tool available on our website here where readers can further investigate historical import data, in total and by product. If you need assistance logging into or navigating the website, contact us at

By Brett Linton,

Brett Linton

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