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US iron, steel trade imbalance shrinks

Keywords: Tags  Trade balance, iron and steel, metallurgical coal, scrap, ores, copper, aluminum, Alliance for American Manufacturing IHS Global Insight

CHICAGO — The gap between iron and steel mill product imports and exports fell 12 percent in January vs. December as imports exceeded exports by just $574 million, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

But after two years of monthly trade surpluses, copper recorded a $153-million deficit in January, with imports rising 34.6 percent and exports falling 8.3 percent from the previous month.

Imports of bauxite and aluminum fell 6.4 percent in January from the previous month after rising 16.8 percent in December. Alumina and aluminum exports fell 6 percent in January after rising 2.1 percent the previous month.

Nickel imports increased 6.6 percent to $210 million in January vs. December and tin imports were 14.3 percent higher at $96 million, but zinc imports fell 11 percent to $121 million, according to the data.

Metallurgical coal exports valued at $708 million in January were down 6.6 percent from the previous month and 36.5 percent lower than in January last year. Exports of metalliferous ores and metal scrap, valued at $2.03 billion in January, fell 8.6 percent from December.

U.S. exports of goods and services totaled $184.45 billion in January and imports reached $228.9 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $44.49 billion, a jump of 16.5 percent from $38.14 billion in December.

The larger oil import bill accounted for more than 90 percent of the increase in imports, said Gregory Daco, senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight, Lexington, Mass. After two consecutive months of gains, exports cooled in January mainly due to a 6-percent decline in industrial supplies.

The U.S. trade deficit with China increased 13.5 percent to $27.8 billion.

Despite the "boosterism" for exports, "remember that net exports matter more and are a part of (gross domestic product). We’re headed in the wrong direction," Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul said. "The rising trade deficit with China is not a good sign for reshoring of manufacturing jobs."

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