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US steel imports slide 11.1% in June

Keywords: Tags  steel imports, cold-rolled sheet, OCTG, line pipe, wire rod, rebar, Census Bureau, Thorsten Schier

NEW YORK — U.S. steel imports fell in June but calls for trade action, particularly vs. value-added sheet products from China, are mounting as more cold-rolled flowed in from the Asian nation.

Imports of cold-rolled sheet from China totaled 77,079 tonnes in June, according to preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data, up 76.9 percent from 43,575 tonnes in May and more than six times imports of 12,468 tonnes in June last year

Total cold-rolled sheet imports last month jumped 31.5 percent from May and were more than double those of a year earlier.

Domestic mills might start seeing a flurry of orders for value-added sheet products due to saber-rattling on imports, one mill source told AMM. "It seemed like hot-rolled (coil) was firming up, but now it seems coated is much firmer," he said.

Executives at Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Steel Dynamics Inc. (SDI) recently called for trade action on cold-rolled, coated and painted steel from China and India (, July 22), and trading houses reportedly have stopped taking future orders for Chinese cold-rolled due to fears of trade action (, July 3).

Cut-to-length plate also showed sharp gains in June, with imports climbing 27.9 percent from the previous month to 150,966 tonnes. South Korea led the gain, with deliveries more than doubling to 30,156 tonnes from 14,094 tonnes in the same comparison.

However, overall steel product imports fell 11.1 percent to 3.25 million tonnes last month from nearly 3.66 million tonnes in May amid a 36.1-percent decrease in line pipe inflows and a 23.4-percent drop in heavy structural shapes.

Line pipe imports from Korea fell 38.4 percent to 57,041 tonnes in June from 92,581 tonnes in May, conflicting with some sources’ earlier assessments that it likely would step up deliveries to the United States ahead of an anti-dumping determination on oil country tubular goods (OCTG) earlier this month (, July 11). But sources also noted that the lag effect on imports means the higher inflows wouldn’t show up immediately.

"Korean manufacturers are trying to lower their offer price for line pipe to get more orders instead of OCTG," one importer source said.

A long-rumored line pipe case is now unlikely, a southern distributor said, adding that he didn’t consider the OCTG decisions a total win for the domestic industry.

The duties imposed likely won’t be substantial enough to keep Korean OCTG producers out of the market. "If they add 15 percent to their price, they’re still below the domestic price," he said.

U.S. imports of blooms, billets and slabs as well as OCTG fell sharply, each logging a 19.8-percent drop in June vs. May. Korean OCTG shipments fell 36.2 percent to 124,303 tonnes from a recent high of 194,959 tonnes in May.

Meanwhile, the impact was felt in June of a countervailing trade case against Chinese wire rod (, July 1), with shipments plummeting 97.6 percent to 1,691 tonnes from 71,090 tonnes in May.

"Imports are going to be dropping off. China is pretty much through with that blast of steel coming in and nothing’s replacing it, so business is good," a Midwest wire rod distributor said.

Duties are likely to remain steep for at least some manufacturers, as the Chinese government and other players have declined to participate in the ongoing inquiry (, July 21).

Rebar imports also have felt the brunt of recent trade action, dropping 16.5 percent to 62,957 tonnes in June from 75,397 tonnes in May and well below the 114,462 tonnes delivered in April and 139,003 tonnes in March.

Mexican rebar imports, in particular, have dwindled since producers there were hit in preliminary U.S. dumping decisions (, April 21), falling 10 percent in June to just 151 tonnes. Imports from Mexico had reached 13,287 tonnes in April.

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