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May steel imports up from April, down from '12

Keywords: Tags  steel imports, Dave Phelps, American Institute for International Steel, AIIS, plate, semi-finished, catherine ngai

NEW YORK — Steel arriving at U.S. ports edged up in May for the third consecutive month, but imports remained lower than a year earlier, according to preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data.

Steel imports totaled 2.54 million tonnes last month, up 2.3 percent from April’s final figure of 2.48 million tonnes but down 8.5 percent from nearly 2.78 million tonnes in May 2012.

Semifinished imports jumped 14.2 percent in May from the previous month to 602,382 tonnes—the highest volume in more than a year, due in large part to increased shipments from Brazil, Russia and Mexico.

"Weak market conditions for imports as well as domestic suppliers continue to be reflected in these import levels. The increase in semifinished imports for use by the domestic integrated mills was greater than the increase in total imports," said David Phelps, president of the American Institute for International Steel (AIIS).

Imports of hot-dipped galvanized sheet and strip totaled 167,694 tonnes in May, a gain of 14.7 percent from April, with increases from South Korea and India partially offset by lower shipments from Canada.

Plate product imports also declined, with shipments of plate in coil falling 42.6 percent from April to 59,845 tonnes and imports of cut-to-length plate down 46.3 percent to 61,313 tonnes due to declines from France and Germany.

Imports of hot-rolled sheet fell 23.7 percent to 155,656 tonnes, the lowest figure in more than a year. Traders have told AMM in recent months that business has been difficult on the narrow spread between imported and domestic material.

Phelps said that as a result of recent moves by domestic mills to hike sheet prices, importers may be allowed some room in the near term. "The sluggish economic conditions in the U.S. economy continue to depress imports, domestic shipments and pricing. Recent price increase announcements by domestic mills give some optimism for improved market conditions, although the most important steel market—nonresidential construction—continues to be far too weak to sustain strong market conditions," he said.

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