Finished steel imports ended 2008 down 5 percent

Based on the Commerce Department’s most recent Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis (SIMA) data, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported that steel import permit applications for the month of December totaled 2,009,000 net tons (NT).

This was a 15 percent decrease from the 2,366,000 permit tons recorded in November 2008, and a 10 percent decline from the November preliminary imports total of 2,241,000 NT.

Import permit tonnage for finished steel in December was 1,797,000 NT, a decrease of 13 percent from the preliminary imports total of 2,058,000 NT in November.

For 2008 (including December SIMA and November preliminary), total and finished steel imports were 31,703,000 NT and 25,739,000 NT, down 5 and 3 percent, respectively, from the 33,244,000 NT and 26,587,000 NT imported in 2007.

In December 2008, the largest finished steel import permit applications for offshore countries were for China (488,000 NT), India (132,000 NT), South Korea, (102,000 NT) and Japan (94,000 NT). Chinese permit tonnage was more than Canada and Mexico combined, and over three times that of any other offshore supplier.

While permit tonnage for Chinese steel decreased 17 percent in December vs. November preliminary imports, this was 27 percent of total SIMA finished steel permit tonnage.

Major finished steel import products that registered large increases in December vs. the November preliminary include Heavy Structural Shapes (up 52 percent) and Cold finished Bars (up 16 percent). Import products with significant increases for full year 2008 vs. 2007 include Oil Country Goods (up 103 percent) and Hot Rolled Bars (up 12 percent).

In summing up 2008 imports (including November preliminary and December SIMA data), AISI President and CEO Thomas J. Gibson said that, “While overall imports have been fairly stable, imports from China surged in the second half.

Of particular concern is that the China import surge in the fourth quarter took place at a time when United States end-use market demand and domestic steel production were both down significantly.