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Steel imports down 16% through October

Longshoremen work to remove coils of steel from the hold of the Federal Nakagawa following the ships arrival in The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in this file photo. Steel imports are down 16% this year.

Steel imports are down nearly 16% so far this year, largely as a result of the administration's Section 232 tariffs on most foreign-made steel.

The United States has imported 24.7 million tons of steel through the end of October, or 15.9% less than the first 10 months in 2018, according to preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data. That includes a 17% drop in finished steel imports that would require no further processing in the United States, such as at the 20 steel companies based at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.

Through the end of October, the United States imported 18.3 million tons of steel, accounting for 20% of the total market share, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The United States imported 1.47 million tons of finished steel in October, up 14.5% year-over-year but down 3.5% as compared to September. That amounted to 17% of the U.S. market share.

In October, imports of wire rods were up by 24%, plates in coils by 13%, sheets and strip hot dipped galvanized by 13%, mechanical tubing by 13% and heavy structural shapes by 12%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Imports were up 8% from South Korea, 22% from Germany, and 54% from Brazil. So far this year, imports are down 11% from South Korea, 7% from Japan, 17% from Germany and 16% from Taiwan.

The drop-off in in imports initially benefited U.S. steelmakers like Northwest Indiana's U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal USA. But the benefits have worn off as steel prices have fallen because of declining demand from the automotive sector, record imports of appliances, a catastrophic collapse in the tin can business and other factors.

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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.