U.S. steel sector capacity utilization rate rises two percentage points

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gui yong nian/Adobe Stock

After dipping two weeks ago, the U.S. steel sector’s capacity utilization rate for the week ending Sept. 5 bounced back.

Steel mills produced at a rate of 63.7% during the week ending Sept. 5, 2020, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). The rate marked an increase from the 61.7% recorded the prior week (when it had fallen from 63.0% the week before that).

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Production hits 1.43M tons

Steel output for the week ending Sept. 5 totaled 1.43 million net tons.

The weekly production total marked a 21.2% decline compared to the week ending Sept. 5, 2019, when capacity utilization reached 78.0%.

Meanwhile, production last week marked a 3.3% increase from the week ending Aug. 29.

Year-to-date output down by one-fifth

Buoyed in part by a recovery in automotive demand, the steel capacity utilization rate has made gains in recent months.

However, for the year to date, the capacity rate and overall output remain down compared to 2019 levels.

Year-to-date steel output totaled 53.27 million net tons, down from 66.73 million net tons for the same period in 2019. The capacity utilization rate for the same period last year reached 80.6%.

Import permit applications down 30.5%

Meanwhile, on the import front, U.S. imports continue to be down compared with 2019 levels.

Steel import permit applications in August fell 30.5% from the permit tons recorded the previous month, according to Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis data. Permit tonnage for August totaled 1.39 million net tons.

However, several products made significant gains from July to August.

Steel imports that saw large increases in August permits compared with July final imports included sheets and strip electrolytic galvanized, which surged by 139%. In addition, steel piling rose 64%, line pipe jumped 33% and cut lengths plates gained 37%.

In the year to date, tin free steel imports gained 30%, while light shapes bars imports jumped 14%.

By country, import permit applications for steel products from South Korea rose 5% and totaled 167,000 net tons. Meanwhile, import applications for Japan (71,000 NT, rose 41%), while Germany rose 5% for 49,000 net tons.

Permit applications for steel products from China fell 52% to 31,000 net tons.

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