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Steel imports soar by 48.3% in July

Workers unload steel coil at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.

Steel imports skyrocketed by 48.3% to 3 million net tons in July, according to preliminary U.S. Census data.

U.S. Steel blamed increased imports of tin products when it announced it would idle East Chicago Tin for the second time in four years, laying off 150 workers. ArcelorMittal USA also pointed to elevated levels of imports in its decision to lay off 100 workers at its Weirton tin mill in West Virginia.

The United States imported 1.84 million net tons of finished steel in July, which was up 6.6% as compared to June, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Imports had been depressed since the imposition of the Section 232 tariffs of 25% last year, but the United States recently lifted the tariffs on Canada and Mexico, two of the larger exporters of steel to the United States.

In July, imports of cut lengths plates rose 55%, line pipe by 29%, hot-rolled bars by 24%, plates in coils by 23%, standard pipe by 21%, hot-rolled sheets by 19%, sheets and strip hot-dipped galvanized by 18%, wire robs by 16%, mechanical tubing by 16%, sheets and strip all other metallic coatings by 11% and heavy structural shapes by 10%, according to the AISI. The largest volumes of offshore finished steel imports last month were from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil and Germany.

Imports from Brazil skyrocketed by 423% in July as compared to June, while imports from South Korea were up by 10%.

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For the first seven months of the year, the largest exporters of steel to the United States were South Korea, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Vietnam. Imports are down 16% from South Korea, 7% from Japan, 9% from Germany, 8% from Taiwan and 21% from Vietnam through the end of July. 

So far this year, the United States has imported 18.6 million tons of steel, which is down 10.6% as compared to the same period in 2018. Finished steel imports that would require no further processing in the United States, such as at the 22 steel companies based out of the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, totaled 13.5 million net tons, which is down 16.4% year-over-year.

Finished steel imports grabbed 19% of the market share in July and 21% over the first seven months of the year.

The United States is on pace to import 32 million tons of steel this year, which would be down 5.1% year-over-year.

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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.