Great Lakes steel production soars by 32,000 tons

2014-04-29T12:00:00Z 2014-04-29T15:19:23Z Great Lakes steel production soars by 32,000 tonsJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

Raw steel production in the country's Great Lakes region rose to 621,000 tons, and overall U.S. output rose by 1.4 percent in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Great Lakes production increased 32,000, or 5.4 percent, but remained under its normal level. Steel production dropped by more 100,000 tons in early April the after U.S. Steel idled blast furnaces at Gary Works, the nation's largest steel mill, because of difficulty bringing raw materials across the icy Great Lakes.

Last year, Great Lakes steel production was typically in the range of 650,000 to 700,000 tons a week.

Most of the raw steel production in the Great Lakes region takes place in Indiana and the Chicago area.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second biggest steel-producing region, fell to 665,000 tons, down from 682,000 tons a week earlier.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.83 million tons, up from 1.8 million tons a week earlier.

U.S. steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 76.3 percent last week, up from 75.2 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 76.7 percent at the same time last year.

Domestic mills have produced an estimated 30.2 million tons of steel this year, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 30.5 million tons produced during the same period last year.

Steel imports declined by 1 percent in March, dropping to 3.2 million tons, according to the American Institute for International Steel.

"We are seeing a slight retreat in imports, but at the same time we see some overall favorable signs for the economy in the first quarter of 2014," said Richard Chriss, executive director of the American Institute for International Steel. "The Federal Reserve's measure of industrial production increased 0.7 percent in March, and has moved up at an annual rate of 4.4 percent – a healthy sign. In addition, the Conference Board’s latest report on the economy for March was also positive – it's leading economic index rose more than projected."

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