Steel shipments got off to a good start in 2021 by rising 5.3% from December to January, the most recent month for which data was available, but were still down by double digits year-over-year.
U.S. steel mills shipped 7.42 million tons of steel in January, which was up 5.3% from the 7.04 million tons shipped in December but down 13.1% as compared to the 8.53 million tons shipped during January 2019, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
U.S. steel mills, including those along the south shore of Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana that account for nearly half the nation's integrated steelmaking capacity, shipped a total of 81 million tons of steel in 2020, a 15.8% decline as compared to shipments of 96.1 million tons the previous year.
In January, shipments of hot-rolled sheet were up 13% and cold-rolled sheet by 6% as compared to the previous month, while hot dipped galvanized sheet and strip were down 3%.
Shipments are a key metric of the financial health of the steel industry, as they reflect the amount of metal actually sold to customers like automakers, appliance manufacturers and service centers.
Steel prices remain elevated after Cleveland-Cliffs acquired ArcelorMittal USA and AK Steel last year n the latest round of consolidation in the industry that gives the remaining steelmakers more leverage.
The price of hot-rolled band shot up 3% to $1,348 a ton in March, according to the steel pricing website SteelBenchmarker. The price of cold-rolled coil rose 4% to $1,525 a ton. Standard plate was up 2% to $1,200 a ton.