US steel imports rise nearly 20% from February to March

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Preliminary US steel imports reached 2.1 million metric tons in March, the Census Bureau reported earlier this month.

Stop obsessing about the actual forecasted steel price. It’s more important to spot the trend. See why.

US steel imports rise, paced by sheets and HDG strip

US steel imports picked up in March from the 1.7 million metric tons brought in during February.

The biggest increases came from sheets and hot dipped galvanized strip, sheets and strip, and reinforcing bars.

Imports of sheets and hot dipped galvanized strip reached 221,721 metric tons, up 43.1% from the previous month. Imports of the product also gained by 18.8% on a year-over-year basis.

Meanwhile, imports of reinforcing bars reached 128,343 metric tons in March, up 65.6%

In oil-relevant news, imports of oil country goods reached 115,905 metric tons in March, up 45.4%. While the demand outlook for oil is still volatile, the ongoing vaccine rollout and the summer season will likely boost demand in the coming months. (Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.)

YTD imports down

However, year-to-date imports through February 2021 totaled 3.9 million metric tons, down from 4.2 million metric tons through the first two months of 2020.

Although imports of sheets and hot dipped galvanized strip surged in March, they fell 22.8% for the year to date (through February) to 232,568 metric tons.

Imports of hot rolled sheets, structural pipe and tube, and tin free steel increased.

By country, imports posted the largest decline from Brazil, the Census Bureau reported. On the other hand, year-to-date increases were seen in imports from Turkey, the United Kingdom and Korea.

Declines in hot rolled sheets, line pipe

Imports declined for hot rolled sheets, heavy structural shapes, and line pipe.

By country, US imports from Canada reached 583,914 metric tons in March, up from 468,161 metric tons in February. Meanwhile, imports from Brazil, Turkey and Sweden declined.

Stainless steel imports flat in year to date

Meanwhile, as we’ve covered here in recent weeks, stainless buyers continue to face challenges in getting supply, particularly amid the ongoing strike at ATI. (MetalMiner is hosting a 30-minute webinar this morning on the state of the stainless steel market — registration information can be found here.)

Through the first two months of 2021, stainless imports were flat compared with 2020. However, March imports totaled 57,767 metric tons, up 6.8% from 54,086 metric tons the previous month.

“In years past, imports were an option to alleviate the domestic supply shortage,” said Katie Benchina Olsen, MetalMiner senior stainless analyst, earlier this week. “In today’s market, other parts of the world have increased stainless demand, too, and shipping options are constrained. Stainless buyers should be prepared for limited stainless supply through the rest of the year.”

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