LOS ANGELES Steel beam imports appear likely to stay relatively strong in March as permit applications, even before the month is over, point to a rise in total arrivals of at least 16 percent over February, with a jump in standard beams offsetting a possible decline in wide-flange products.
Permit applications for both standard and wide-flange beams through March 26 totaled nearly 32,543 tonnes, up from 28,154 tonnes in all of February, according to preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data. While March applications for wide-flange beam imports through March 26 had reached just 16,260 tonnes vs. 22,056 tonnes in all of February, standard beam applications had shot up to 16,283 tonnes so far in March from just 6,098 tonnes the previous month, more off than offsetting the possible dip in wide-flange product imports.
The indicated March import numbers are considered comparatively strong in light of a U.S. beam market in which demand has continued to lag, sources said. Although domestic beam producers have announced a $25-per-ton increase on beams for April, most sources said its still a bit early to tell if earlier reported deals in the form of "foreign fighter" and other discount programs will disappear. According to sources, there are scattered indications that some projects could be attracting prices that reflect discounts of up to about $60 per ton off published mill f.o.b. tags.
The surge in standard beam import applications is being led by Russia and Luxembourg, which together are seeking permits for about 14,700 tonnes of imports, with no other country applying for more than 800 tonnes.
Russian standard beam applications for March have so far totaled about 7,704 tonnes compared with 3,228 tonnes in February. Applications on standard beams from Luxembourg have jumped to 7,040 tonnes compared with just 180 tonnes in February, marking the countrys highest import levels since September.
In wide-flange product, South Korea is showing the most striking decline this month, with import permits dropping to 7,583 tonnes this month through Tuesday, down from about 20,096 tonnes of Korean material last month. Luxembourg, which accounted for about 1,186 tonnes of wide-flange beam permits in February, had applied for 8,021 tonnes so far in March.