US steel imports dropped both sequentially and year on year in September, with volumes of semi-finished steel products, reinforcing bar and oil country tubular goods logging the sharpest declines.
Imports totaled 2.04 million tonnes in September, down by 712,505 tonnes month on month and by 759,174 tonnes year on year, according to preliminary Census data from the US Department of Commerce's Enforcement and Compliance division.
Shipments of blooms, billets and slabs saw the steepest drops on a tonnage and percentage basis - falling by 557,579 tonnes, or 61.4%, from August to September. Meanwhile, in the same comparison, rebar shipments declined by 68,637 tonnes - or 52.2% - and oil country goods imports dropped by 52,209 tonnes - or 26.8%.
On the other hand, hot-rolled sheet import volumes showed the biggest sequential gain last month - reaching 225,104 tonnes in September, up by 25.3% from 179,645 tonnes in August.
The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) named standard pipe and hot-rolled sheet as “key finished steel products with a significant import increase” from August to September.
Still, year-to-date import volumes are down from the same 2017 period, the AISI said on Wednesday October 24.
Measured in net tons, finished steel imports for the first nine months of 2018 fell by 12.5% year on year. Import market share for finished steel stands at an estimated 20% for September and 24% for the year to date, the AISI reported.
Under Section 232, 25% tariffs on US steel imports were applied against most countries in late March and against shipments from Canada, Mexico and the European Union on June 1. Brazil, Argentina, South Korea and Australia were granted exemptions from the duties, with shipments from Brazil, Argentina and South Korea subject to annual quotas that restrict quarterly volumes to one-fourth of their respective yearly totals.
Still, Brazil and South Korea - alongside Canada and Mexico - remain among the top suppliers of US steel imports.
Some 171,837 tonnes of steel goods arrived on US shores from South Korea last month, up 8.8% from 157,984 tonnes in August, Census data shows.
Meanwhile, Brazilian steel exports totaled 104,772 tonnes in September; that figure is well below the 607,507 tonnes seen in August, which marked the highest monthly total since at least August 2017.
And steel imports from Turkey also increased month on month, despite the doubling of 232 tariffs against that country in August. Volumes from Turkey totaled 120,669 tonnes in September, compared with 107,774 tonnes in August and 106,035 tonnes in September 2017.
Market participants had previously speculated that the higher tariffs would effectively block Turkish steel from the US market.