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Steel import market share creeping down

Workers unload wrapped steel coils off a ship at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in 2015.

The market share of steel imports crept down to 24 percent in February, down from 26 percent in January, even before the United States imposed tariffs of 25 percent on foreign-made steel outside of Canada and Mexico.

Steel permit applications in February totaled 2.4 million tons, a 21.2 percent decrease from the 3 million tons of imports permitted in January and a 15.6 percent decrease in the 2.8 million tons that were ultimately imported, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. 

That included permits for 1.95 million tons of finished steel products, down 16.2 percent as compared to January. Imports of heavy structural shapes rose by 56 percent, wire rod by 35 percent and wire drawn by 21 percent in February. Outside of NAFTA trading partners, South Korea, Germany, Japan, China and Taiwan sent over the most steel last month.

Through the first two months of the year, the United States imported 5.3 million tons of steel, a 4.2 percent decrease from the same period in 2017, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s most recent Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis.

That included 4.2 million tons of finished steel products, down 3 percent from the same period last year.

So far this year, imports of oil country goods have risen by 58 percent, hot rolled bars by 29 percent, hot rolled sheets by 28 percent, line pipe by 27 percent, wire drawn by 15 percent and plates in coils by 13 percent. Outside of NAFTA, most of the imports have come from South Korea, Japan and Germany, according to the AISI.

Imports have captured 25 percent of the U.S. market share so far this year, down from 28 percent during the first two months of 2017.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.