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Oct. steel imports fall to six-month low

Keywords: Tags  steel imports, cold-rolled, structural, Census Bureau, import licenses, galvanized, Michelle Applebaum, Catherine Ngai

NEW YORK — Steel imports in October fell to the lowest level in six months on the back of major declines in semifinished material and plate products.

Steel arriving at U.S. ports fell 2.4 percent to 2.3 million tonnes from nearly 2.4 million tonnes in September, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Major declines under carbon and alloy were logged in semifinished material, which fell 20.7 percent to 420,907 tonnes. Cut-to-length plate also slid 12.3 percent to 93,561 tonnes, while plate in coils posted an 11.2-percent fall to 87,847 tonnes.

Meanwhile, gains were seen in heavy structural shapes, which rose 55.4 percent to 54,025 tonnes in preliminary October data vs. the month prior. That figure is also 77.1 percent higher than the October 2011 tally of 30,509 tonnes. Reinforcing bar imports were also up 27 percent in October vs. September, tallying 53,247 tonnes.

Imports of hot-dipped galvanized moved up 11.7 percent due to large tonnages from India. Imports of cold-rolled sheet increased 7.2 percent due to large tonnages from China.

By country, imports from Canada and Mexico fell by a combined 6.2 percent to 597,961 tonnes. Imports from China jumped 14.8 percent, imports from South Korea moved up 15.6 percent and imports from Japan saw a 25.7-percent increase in October.

"We believe the pickup in imports from Asia is a result of overcapacity from China and Korea spilling into the region, resulting in more steel shipped to the still most open U.S. market," Steel Market Intelligence managing partner Michelle Applebaum said in a research note.

Steel license applications through Nov. 27 show imports poised to hit 2.1 million tonnes, although Applebaum noted that the final figures could be lower due to pricing pressure.

"Based on current November import licenses, we expect to see a small drop in actual November imports, as steel pricing declines that started in September ... are likely to keep imports at low levels through year-end," she said.

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