U.S. steel capacity utilization inches closer to 60%

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The U.S. steel sector’s steel capacity utilization rate has continued to inch upward in recent months, rising to 59.3% for the week ending Aug. 1.

Production for the week ending Aug. 1 totaled 1.33 million net tons, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

Steel production gains 0.6%

U.S. steel production for the week in question marked a 0.6% increase from the previous week, when the steel capacity utilization rate stood at 58.9%. (Whether you’re buying in the U.S. market or not, see why technical analysis is a superior forecasting methodology over fundamental analysis and why it matters for your steel buy.)

Meanwhile, production for the week ending Aug. 1, 2020, dropped 28.1% compared with the same week in 2019. For the week ending Aug. 1, 2019, the steel capacity utilization rate reached 79.3%.

Production in the year to date reached 46.1 million net tons at a capacity utilization rate of 66.2%. That output compares with 57.6 million net tons during the same period in 2019, when the capacity utilization rate reached 80.9%.

Broken down by region, production for the week ending Aug. 1, 2020, totaled:

  • Northeast: 134,000 net tons
  • Great Lakes: 462,000 net tons
  • Midwest: 145,000 net tons
  • Southern: 515,000 net tons
  • Western: 72,000 net tons

Steel imports down 21%

In other steel news, AISI recently reported U.S. steel imports through the first half of the year were down 21% year over year.

Imports of line pipe and oil country goods fell 65.3% and 46.6%, respectively.

ArcelorMittal begins nearly 900 layoffs at East Chicago plant

As we noted yesterday, ArcelorMittal is laying off nearly 900 employees at its Indiana Harbor plant.

Wendell Carter, general manager and vice president of ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, commented on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in a letter to state regulators.

“Many of the company’s customers closed their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Carter wrote. “Despite their re-openings, business conditions continue to be depressed during the pandemic, with no significant improvement in demand for the products we manufacturer foreseen in the near term. This had a direct impact on our business.”

On the other hand, U.S. Steel recently announced it would restart blast furnace No. 8 at its Gary Works, effective Aug. 1.

In short, buyers should continue to keep tabs on announcements of mill closures and restarts. In addition, buyers should make sure to know the five golden rules of sourcing steel as they head into the steel contracting season.

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