Steel import permit applications up nine percent over previous month

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 September totaled 2,684,000 net tons (NT).

This was a 9 percent increase from the 2,460,000 permit tons recorded in August 2008, and a 14 percent increase from the August preliminary imports total of 2,346,000 NT. Import permit tonnage for finished steel in September was 2,279,000 NT, an increase of 16 percent from the preliminary imports total of 1,958,000 NT in August. For the first nine months of 2008 (including September SIMA and August preliminary), total steel imports were 23,869,000 NT, down 9 percent from the 26,144,000 NT imported in the first nine months of last year. Total steel imports for 2008 would annualize at 31.8 million NT, or 4 percent below the 2007 12-month total.

For September 2008, the largest finished steel import permit applications for offshore countries were for China (594,000 NT), South Korea (221,000 NT), India (142,000 NT) and Japan (128,000 NT). Mainly because of a record monthly amount of import permits for Oil Country Goods from China, Chinese steel permit tons for the second consecutive month set a new high for 2008. They exceeded the previous monthly high this year (495,000NT in August) by 20 percent, and were 23 percent higher than China’s preliminary imports in August. This was the largest monthly total for Chinese steel since October 2006.

Major import product categories that registered large increases in September vs. the August preliminary include Oil Country Goods (up 56 percent), Hot Dipped Galvanized Sheet & Strip (up 51 percent), Cold Rolled Sheets (up 38 percent), Line Pipe (up 35 percent), Standard Pipe (up 23 percent) and Hot Rolled Sheets (up 22 percent). Import product categories with significant increases year-to-date vs. 2007 include Oil Country Goods (up 59 percent) and Line Pipe (up 10 percent).

In commenting on the import situation, Thomas J. Gibson, AISI president and CEO, said that, “The trend with respect to China is of particular concern. Imports of Chinese finished steel were more than 70 percent higher in the third quarter than in the second quarter and, for September, represented more than a quarter of all United States imports of finished steel. Regarding surging imports of Oil Country Goods from China, it is worth stressing once again that the Chinese government is continuing to provide a 13 percent rebate on its exports of this high value product.”