LAS VEGAS Steel imports arriving at U.S. ports were poised to rebound last month on the back of major increases in pipe and bar products.
January steel import license applications totaled nearly 2.4 million tonnes, up 12.4 percent from December preliminary import figures of 2.1 million tonnes, according to data from the Commerce Departments Import Administration.
Oil country tubular goods (OCTG) license applications totaled 284,652 tons, up more than 90 percent from Decembers preliminary figure of 149,461 tonnes. South Korea accounted for much of the increase at 97,817 tonnes, the highest figure in more than a year. Imports of Korean line pipe jumped to 82,114 tonnes in January, three times the amount tallied in December.
License applications for hot-rolled bar imports in January were their highest in eight months at 138,974 tonnes, including 59,941 tonnes from China. Market sources previously told AMM that wire rod might have been classified as hot-rolled bar due to added boron in the steel (amm.com, Jan. 11).
Imports of reinforcing bar more than doubled in January to 131,149 tonnes due to a sharp increase in shipments from Turkey to 105,960 tonnes from 27,329 tonnes in December.
But imports could trend downward in the near term. "Given domestic sheet price weakness over the past few months and flattish long product prices vs. rising global steel prices for both types of products, we expect imports to post a smaller pickup" in the first quarter vs. the fourth quarter than in recent years, as well as show a year-over-year decline in the first three months of the year, Michelle Applebaum, managing partner at Chicago-based Steel Market Intelligence, said in a note.