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US steel imports poised to rise for July

Keywords: Tags  steel, license data, steel imports, Enforcement and Compliance division, Commerce Department, Nat Rudarakanchana

NEW YORK — U.S. steel imports appear to be on course to rise 5.2 percent for July, driven by strong gains in inflows of plate in coil and stainless steel.

Import license applications totaled 3.44 million tonnes last month, according to import license data updated Aug. 6 by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Enforcement and Compliance division. In June, imports were just shy of 3.28 million tonnes, preliminary data show.

Import licenses for plate in coil totaled 226,436 tonnes for July, more than double levels seen the prior month, driven by increased shipments from Russia, South Korea, Canada and the Netherlands.

Hot-rolled sheet imports rose 17.3 percent to 375,881 tonnes, with import licenses for Russia more than doubling to 66,116 tonnes from 32,044 tonnes in June.

The most recent data on imports of Chinese and Russian product could give more weight to domestic mills’ pending and potential trade complaints, one trader told AMM.

"I would expect the (U.S.) Commerce Department to revoke the suspension agreement," he said. "Especially now that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is talking about implementing his own sanctions against us and the European companies; it’s going to escalate."

Some traders have avoided Russian product recently because the end of the suspension agreement brings significant anti-dumping duties into effect immediately, leading to hefty and unpredictable surcharges, the trader added.

Imports of Chinese cold-rolled sheet could prompt domestic mills to file a new trade complaint, he said.

While inflows look set to edge back 33.7 percent for July—to 51,134 tonnes from 77,079 tonnes a month earlier after reaching a high of 95,469 tonnes in April—levels remain elevated compared with historical averages of about 20,000 tonnes monthly.

Fears mounted about potential trade action in June, leading prices to fall, although some market sources dismissed the talk (, June 24).

Meanwhile, U.S. line pipe import licenses rose 31.8 percent to 182,272 tonnes for July due to stronger shipments from Canada (up nearly fourfold to 21,058 tonnes from 5,714 tonnes), India (to 19,113 tonnes from 1,746 tonnes) and Greece (to 14,974 tonnes vs. no shipments in June).

Import license applications for South Korea totaled 66,309 tonnes for July, up 16.2 percent from 57,046 tonnes in June.

The prospects of a trade case against line pipe imports are seen as being bolstered by a favorable ruling involving oil country tubular goods (OCTG) imports (, Aug. 5).

It’s logical for mills shut out by OCTG margins to switch some production into line pipe, one trader told AMM.

"The circumstances look pretty much the same as they did on OCTG before that filing," he said, citing recent line pipe imports. "However, the latter (OCTG) was talked about for several years before they finally pulled the trigger, so this might just be the first salvo."

U.S. imports of cut-to-length-plate, cold-rolled sheet, and blooms, billets and slabs all declined in July.

Stainless steel imports look set to jump 72.9 percent for July. However, the United States was again listed as a major source of shipments, likely representing product passing through free-trade zones or leaving and re-entering the country unaltered.

Thorsten Schier, New York, contributed to this story.

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