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Iron, steel trade deficit rises in February

Keywords: Tags  iron, steel mill products, aluminum, bauxite, zinc, nickel, copper, metals trade deficit Paul Edelstein

CHICAGO — U.S. metals trade was mixed in February, with iron and steel mill products posting a wider deficit vs. January as copper’s surplus narrowed.

The iron and steel mill product deficit hit $860 million in February, up 31.3 percent from $655 million in January, as imports gained 11.8 percent while exports rose just 0.9 percent, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For the first two months of the year, the iron and steel mill product deficit reached nearly $1.52 billion, more than double the year-earlier $696 million, as imports rose nearly 43 percent and exports grew 17.1 percent.

Meanwhile, copper posted a trade surplus of $222 million in February, down 17.5 percent from $269 million a month earlier. Copper maintained a year-to-date trade surplus of $492 million, more than double the year-earlier $242 million.

Imports of bauxite and aluminum fell slightly in February but increased 8.1 percent year to date, and exports of aluminum and alumina increased 3.8 percent month on month and rose 5.7 percent in the first two months of the year.

Zinc imports showed little change in February but fell 21.5 percent year to date, while nickel imports jumped 28 percent month on month in February but fell 2.8 percent year to date.

The overall U.S. trade deficit in February was $46 billion, down 12.4 percent from $52.5 billion in January. The proportion of that total that is with China declined 25.4 percent—a consequence of the Chinese New Year, IHS Global Insight economist Paul Edelstein noted Thursday.

The holiday "idled Chinese factories that produce goods for U.S. markets," he said. "If the Chinese New Year is the culprit, and if demand for imported goods remains robust, then the import bill will likely rebound in March."

On the other hand, any upside potential for exports in the spring could be limited by waning growth in some of America’s major trading partners, including the European Union, to which automotive exports fell 6.4 percent in February.

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