US finished steel import permits reach highest level in over three years

Thursday, 03 May 2012 02:03:11 (GMT+2)   -  

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The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported Wednesday that based on the Commerce Department's Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) data, steel import permit applications in April totaled 3.07 million net tons (nt), reflecting a 5 percent decrease from the 3.25 million nt recorded in March and a 6 percent increase from the March preliminary imports total of 2.9 million nt.

Import permit tonnage for finished steel in April was 2.4 million nt, up 11 percent from the preliminary imports total of 2.2 million nt in March.  The 2.4 million permit tons of finished steel imports in April were the highest monthly tonnage figure since October 2008.  April 2012 total and finished steel import permit tons would annualize at 34.5 million nt and 26.5 million nt, up 21 percent and 22 percent, respectively, versus the 28.5 million nt 21.8 million nt imported in 2011.  The estimated finished steel import market share in April rose to 25 percent, which is the highest level in the last nine months.

In April, the largest finished steel import permit applications for offshore countries were for South Korea (335,000 nt and up 23 percent from March); Japan (166,000 nt and down 7 percent); China (164,000 nt and up 57 percent); Russia (148,000 nt and up 358 percent); and Turkey (121,000 nt and down 26 percent).  For the first four months of 2012, the largest offshore suppliers were South Korea (1,260,000 nt and up 32 percent from the same period in 2011); Japan (653,000 nt and up 35 percent); and Turkey (634,000 nt and up 133 percent). 

Finished steel import permits for products that registered large increases in April compared to March include plates in coils, metallic-coated sheet and strip, hot rolled sheets, HDG sheet and strip and hot rolled bars. Meanwhile, plate and rebar both had significant year-to-date increases versus the same period in 2011.

Thomas Gibson, AISI President and CEO, found April import levels concerning, commenting: "The significant increase in steel imports and steel import market share in 2012 to levels that are now matching the pre-recession levels is occurring at a time when domestic steel production and capacity utilization remain well below the pre-recession level.  This large increase in steel imports in 2012 is clearly outpacing the moderate gains we have seen in domestic steel demand this year.  Given that rising imports and import market share contribute to lost US jobs, we would strongly encourage our government leaders to elevate discussions regarding steel imports whenever possible in bilateral conversations with foreign leaders, especially when they involve issues of unfair trade."

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