MARCH 2009

Steel imports end year down

Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported that the United States imported a total of 1,987,000 net tons (NT) of steel in December 2008, including 1,771,000 NT of finished steel (down 17 percent and 20 percent, respectively, vs. November final data).

Imports of total and finished steel in 2008 were 31.8 million NT and 25.9 million NT, respectively. Total and finished steel imports for full year 2008 were down 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively, vs. the same period in 2007. However, the fourth quarter monthly average for finished steel imports was the same as it was in the first 9 months, even as sharply deteriorating market conditions caused monthly average fourth quarter domestic shipments to decline by 38 percent compared to the monthly average of the prior three quarters. As a result, while finished steel import market share was an estimated 24 percent for 2008 as a whole, this imports’ share rose to 32 percent in the last quarter.

Imports of Finished Steel Mill Products

Key products with increases in 2008 compared to 2007 were Oil Country Goods (up 104 percent) and Plates in Coils (up 17 percent).

In December, the largest volume of finished imports from offshore was from China (476,000 NT, down 21 percent from November). This was 27 percent of all finished imports. Finished steel imports from China in 2008 were in excess of 4.8 million NT, which was 4.7 percent above 2007. This was also more than twice the import tonnage of any other offshore supplier. In addition, finished steel imports from China increased by over 100 percent in the second half of 2008 vs. the first half.

Much of the second half 2008 import surge from China was in tubular and other high-value products still receiving substantial government export tax rebates. Other major offs­­hore suppliers in December were Korea (111,000 NT, down 52 percent from November), India (108,000, up 85 percent), Japan (107,000 NT, down 27 percent), Germany (83,000 NT, up 14 percent) and Turkey (72,000 NT, down 54 percent).