Steel Products Prices North America

September Import Share of US Sheet and Plate Markets

Written by David Schollaert

Imported sheet and plate products arrived at US ports at a slower clip in September, accounting for a lower share of the domestic market for the third straight month.

That’s according to a Steel Market Update analysis of import data from the US Commerce Department and domestic shipment figures from the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

Imports’ share of US sheet and plate markets peaked nearly a year ago, with sheet reaching its highest level in the past four-plus years. The trend was driven by buyers looking for relief from inflated domestic steel prices. As the market slowed at year-end 2021, so did imports. That downward trend has characterized recent months as well.

Imports’ share of total sheet shipments in the US was 15.6% in September, down from 17% in August. The decline was driven by a 15.2% decrease in foreign sheet while domestic shipments were down nearly 6%. The market share of plate product imports also dipped in September, to 19.3% from 20.1% the month prior.

September’s sheet imports totaled 683,831 tons, down from 806,871 tons in August. Overall sheet product shipments (domestic shipments plus imports) were 5.6% lower in September, down from 3.94 million tons to 3.71 million tons.

Overall sheet products totaled 4.39 million tons in September, down from 4.75 million tons in August.

Hot-rolled coil (HRC) imports fell 18.6% month-on-month (MoM) in September, totaling 161,295 tons versus 198,062 tons in August. Domestic shipments of HRC were down 5.8% or 94,043 tons less MoM. The details are below in Figure 1.

Imp.Market.Share SP Figure1

The import share of HRC fell 1.3 percentage points to 9.5% in September — a slightly lower share historically and well below the recent high of 15.3% set last October. The decreased share was driven by a MoM decline in both domestic shipments and foreign material. HRC apparent supply totaled 1.7 million tons in September, down from 1.83 million tons the month prior.

Imports of galvanized (hot dipped and electrolytic) were down 18.3% in September. Cold-rolled coil (CRC) imports fell 25.2%, while other metallic coat (OMC) declined by 12.1% MoM.

Plate products in September saw an overall decrease in shipments as apparent supply slipped by 17% MoM. The decrease was driven by a decline of 20.1% in plate imports and a 16.2% drop in domestic shipments MoM. Plate imports were their second-lowest total YTD at 136,350 tons.

All told, total plate shipments, including foreign and domestic, were 704,892 tons in September, down from 849,139 tons the month prior.

The import market share for plates in coil fell to 33.8% in September, a 12.2 percentage point decline MoM. The decrease in market share was driven by a 28.4% cut in imports and a 19.2% decline in domestic shipments. Total imports of plates in coil were 95,689 tons in September, down from August’s 133,696 tons.

The table below displays the total supply to the market in three months and 12 months through September 2022 for sheet and plate products and six subcategories. Supply to the market is the total of domestic mill shipments plus imports. It shows imports on the same three- and 12-month basis and then calculates import market share for the two time periods for six products. Finally, it subtracts the 12-month share from the three-month share. Increasing import market share is in red. Decreasing import market share is in green.

Imp.Market.Share SP Table1

The big picture: imports’ share of US sheet and plate sales fell in September. The big second-half jump in total imports in 2021 was the result of historically and disproportionately high domestic steel prices. The influx of foreign material has declined considerably on sharply lower domestic prices. The war in Ukraine shifted that dynamic temporarily earlier in the year, but imports have become more balanced as prices have continued to settle lower.

Hot-rolled and cold-rolled sheet and strip have seen a trend shift along with plate products, illustrating how import competition is no longer impacting domestic products in three months compared to 12 months. HRC imports, along with plate imports, CR, and galvanized lost ground, while OMC gained ground. The most notable of those subcategories is HRC and plate in coil, which have both seen declining import market shares through September.

The import market share of individual plate products and a breakdown of the market share for plates in coil are displayed together in Figure 2. The historical import market share of plate and sheet products, and the import market share of the four major sheet products, are shown side-by-side in Figure 3.

Imp.Market.Share SP Figure2

Imp.Market.Share SP Figure3

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

Read more from David Schollaert

Latest in Steel Products Prices North America