NEW YORK Steel imports arriving at U.S. ports were poised to slide in February, due largely to a decrease in shipments of hot-rolled sheet, hot-dipped galvanized sheet and strip, and oil country goods.
February steel license applications totaled 2.32 million tonnes, down 0.8 percent from Januarys preliminary import figure of 2.34 million tonnes and 6 percent lower than 2.47 million tonnes in February last year, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Departments Import Administration.
Much of the decline was seen in oil country goods, which fell 29 percent to 184,017 tonnes; hot-dipped galvanized sheet and strip, down 17.1 percent to 147,837 tonnes; and hot-rolled sheet, which declined 13.3 percent to 177,265 tonnes.
But imports of semifinished material increased 31.7 percent to 554,412 tonnes, which some sources said was a result of inventory buildup.
"A big driver of the increased semifinished tonnage is the likelihood that (ThyssenKrupp AGs Alabama mill) continued to build slab inventory ahead of a potential longshoremen strike (which was not averted until early February) as Brazilian semifinished imports rose 15.9 percent," Michelle Applebaum, managing partner at Chicago-based Steel Market Intelligence, wrote in a note. Overall, semifinished imports were up from the five largest sources: Brazil, Russia, Japan, Mexico and Canada.
Cut-to-length plate imports also increased in February, jumping 92.1 percent to 85,918 tonnes due to major shipments from Germany and France, and shipments of plate in coil rose 31.6 percent to 82,969 tonnes.
Market sources have said that finding traction on the spot market for foreign commodity flat products remains difficult as a result of softening U.S. prices.
"Given rising global steel pricing trends and flat-to-down domestic long- and flat-product prices in recent months, we expect imports to moderate through the next few months," Applebaum said.