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US steel imports inch 4.3% higher in April

Keywords: Tags  steel, Michelle Applebaum, preliminary steel imports, hot-rolled, semi-finished, catherine ngai

NEW YORK — U.S. steel imports edged up in April compared with the previous month, although they were far lower than a year earlier, U.S. Census Bureau data show.

Preliminary steel imports totaled 2.43 million tonnes last month, up 4.3 percent from March’s final figure of 2.33 million tonnes but down 14.8 percent from more than 2.85 million tonnes in April last year.

Much of the month-over-month increase was due to strong volumes of semifinished material and plate products. Semifinished imports rose 17 percent to 527,254 tonnes, while cut-to-length plate jumped 52.6 percent to 92,526 tonnes and plate in coil increased 58.8 percent to 104,260 tonnes. Decreases were seen primarily in reinforcing bar, which plunged 75.2 percent to 34,770 tonnes, and hot-dipped galvanized sheet and strip (down 14.9 percent to 146,124 tons).

Most major products saw declines compared with April 2012, including semifinished material (down 10.2 percent), oil country tubular goods (down 13.6 percent), hot-rolled coil (down 33.1 percent) and line pipe (down 30.5 percent).

Michelle Applebaum, managing partner at Chicago-based Steel Market Intelligence, said low domestic pricing for flat products likely will lead to a decline in imports in the near term, while imported long products could see a near-term increase.

"The next few months will likely see a pickup in imported long products and a decline in flat-rolled imports as relative prices for each product line have diverged, with domestic prices higher for longs and lower for flats at a time when world steel demand growth appears to be ebbing," she said in a note.

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