Davis Index: Market Intelligence for the Global Metals and Recycled Materials Markets

Total steel imports to the US continue trending down after falling 15pc last year, hitting the lowest level seen in a decade. Finished steel imports dropped 17.9pc in 2019.


Steel import permit applications to the US declined by 47.5pc from 3.47mn nt (3.15mn mt) in January to 1.82mn nt in February, and decreased by 41.8pc compared to January’s preliminary total imports of 3.14mn nt, according to the American Iron & Steel Institute (AISI) data. 


Import permit tonnage for finished steel products—which don’t require any further processing—declined by 16.8pc in February to 1.36mn nt, compared to the preliminary total of 1.63mn nt in January, according to AISI.


The US imported 4.96mn nt of total steel through the first two months of 2020, a decrease of 16.1pc compared to the same period in 2019.  It also imported 2.99mn nt of finished steel in January and February 2020, a 28.7pc decrease from a year earlier.


Finished steel import permits showing the largest growth in February compared to January preliminary imports were heavy structural shapes that increased by 45pc and tin plate increased by 20pc.


Through the first two months of 2020, tin free steel imports rose by 69pc, while mechanical tubing imports increased by 11pc.


The major finished US steel import permit applications in February came from South Korea, which decreased by 15pc from January to 155,000nt, while Turkey, which increased by 75pc, reached 89,000nt. Japan supplied 75,000nt, declining by 2pc; Germany provided 51,000nt, which increased by 5pc; and supply from Taiwan declined by 4pc to 43,000nt.


The largest offshore suppliers through February 2020 were South Korea, which decreased by 39pc to 337,000nt, Japan, which decreased by 34pc to 151,000nt, and Turkey, which increased by 39pc to 139,000nt compared to February 2019.


Finished steel imports based on market share in the US were 19pc in 2019, the lowest since 2003, largely because of Section 232 tariffs imposed in 2018. The US finished steel import market share is estimated at 16pc in February, and is at 16pc so far this year.


The US steel industry, particularly steel mills in Northwest Indiana, have been hurt by low prices, service center destocking, unpredictable raw materials prices, automotive sales drops, and other factors. 


Note: import permit data is a total of tonnage requested in applications for steel import licenses and are not actual volumes. Preliminary estimates of actual import volume will be available later in March, per AISI.

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