International Steel Prices

October Import Share of US Sheet and Plate Markets

Written by David Schollaert

Imported sheet and plate products arrived at US ports at a slightly higher clip in October, though their share of the US market diverged as domestic shipments varied during the 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 seeking relief from inflated domestic steel prices. As the market slowed at year-end 2021, so did imports. That downward trend has continued in recent months as well.

Imports’ share of total sheet shipments in the US was 15.4% in October, down slightly from 15.6% in September. The decline was driven by a 1.5% increase in domestic sheet shipments, while foreign sheet arrivals were just 0.3% higher over the same period. The market share of plate product imports in contrast rose in September, to 21% from 19.3% the month prior, driven by a nearly 11% increase in foreign plate products.

October’s sheet imports totaled 686,216 tons, up from 683,831 tons in September. Overall sheet product shipments (domestic shipments plus imports) were 1.5% higher in October, up from 3.71 million tons to 3.76 million tons.

Overall sheet products totaled 4.45 million tons in October, up from 4.39 million tons in September.

Hot-rolled coil (HRC) imports fell 2.1% month on month (MoM) in October, totaling 157,918 tons vs. 161,295 tons in September. Domestic shipments of HRC were down 1% or just 15,864 tons less MoM. The details are below in Figure 1.

Imp.Market.Share SP Figure1

The import share of HRC was largely unchanged, slipping just 0.1 percentage points to 9.4% in October — a slightly lower share historically but well below the recent high of 15.3% set last October. The decreased share was driven by a marginally wider MoM decline in the arrival of foreign material even though both domestic shipments also edged down. HRC apparent supply totaled 1.68 million tons in October, down from 1.70 million tons the month prior.

Imports of cold-rolled coil (CRC) imports rose by 24.5% in October, while galvanized (hot dipped and electrolytic) were up 4.4% over the same period. Other metallic coat (OMC) fell by 29.2% MoM.

Plate products in October saw an overall increase in shipments as apparent supply edged up by 1.9% MoM. The increase was driven by an increase of 10.6% in plate imports, even though domestic shipments slipped by just 0.1% MoM. Despite the increase, plate imports were still among some of the lowest totals YTD at 150,768 tons.

All told, total plate shipments, including foreign and domestic, were 718,618 tons in October, up from 704,892 tons the month prior.

The import market share for plates in coil rose to 39.1% in October, a 5.3-percentage-point increase MoM. The gain in market share was driven by a 13.6% cut in domestic shipments, while imports rose by 8.5%. Total imports of plates in coil were 103,780 tons in October, up from September’s 95,689 tons.

The table below displays the total supply to the market in three months and 12 months through October 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 remain down through October. 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.

Except for cold-rolled sheet and strip, and other metallic coat, all sheet and plate products have seen a trend shift, illustrating how import competition is no longer impacting domestic products in three months compared to 12 months. The most notable of those subcategories is HRC and plate in coil, which have both seen declining import market shares through October.

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

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