Steel Products Prices North America

May Import Licenses Steady, Flat-Rolled at 9-Month High

Written by Laura Miller

US steel imports were steady from April to May, according to the latest data from the US Department of Commerce.

May’s import license count – a first look at import figures for a given month, at 2,395,039 net tons – was just 0.5% higher than April’s final count of 2,382,580 tons.

Compared to the same month last year, however, May licenses were 12.9% lower. Recall that in 2022, the highest months for imports, in order, were March, January, June, and then May.

A deeper look at the import figures reveals flat-rolled and semifinished steel imports were notably higher month-over-month (MoM), while big declines were seen in long products, pipe and tube, and stainless products.

06.08.23 Import Licenses Fig 1 

Looking at the three-month moving average of imports (see Fig. 2), which smooths out the large month-to-month swings in imports of semis, shows imports so far this year are trending below the elevated levels seen from mid-2021 through mid-2022.

06.08.23 Import Licenses Fig 2

Semifinished steel imports jumped 20% from April to May, and with overall imports flat, this resulted in a 4% decline in finished steel imports (see Fig. 3).

06.08.23 Import Licenses Fig 3

Flat-rolled steel imports have been oscillating month-to-month this year (see Fig. 4).

The high-volume flat-rolled imports tracked by SMU all rose from April to May, based on May’s license figures, with cold-rolled and cut plate imports spiking significantly. Cold-rolled imports were at a six-month high thanks to a rise in licenses from Australia, while cut-to-length plate imports were at their highest monthly amount since January 2019, with a high number of license applications for the product from Australia and Italy.

06.08.23 Import Licenses Fig 4

Pipe and tube imports plummeted 20% MoM to a 9-month low (see Fig. 5), led by a 41% drop in OCTG imports. OCTG licenses were down for the product from most major Asian suppliers, including South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan.

06.08.23 Import Licenses Fig 5

The chart below provides further detail into imports by product, highlighting high-volume steel products.

06.08.23 Import Licenses Fig 6

You can use our interactive graphing tool, available here, to explore historical import data.

By Laura Miller,

Laura Miller

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