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US Steel Imports Surge, Driven By Price Differentials

Steel imports are expected to hit 3.2 million tons in January, up 23 percent from a year ago, as price differences between U.S. and Chinese steel rose to $159 per ton. At this time last year, U.S. steel cost $19 less than Chinese steel, according to market analysis firm CRU Group.

“It’s the largest first-quarter import order I’ve seen in the last five years,” one unnamed steel trader told the Wall Street Journal. That trader brokers steel purchases between U.S. buyers and foreign sellers.

The surge in imports could impact confidence in major U.S. steel producers like United States Steel Corp. (NYSE:X), AK Steel Holding Corp. (NYSE:AKS) and ArcelorMittal USA Inc., which all report earnings within the next two weeks.

Price-wise, the average U.S. price for a benchmark hot-rolled coil is $676, up 10 percent from a year ago. That compares with the Chinese benchmark price of $540 a ton. Even with shipping costs factored in, foreign steel can end up being 10 percent cheaper, according to Midland Steel Warehouse Corp.’s Howard Allen.

EU steel imports rose in July and August, says EUROFER

  1. A Baosteel mill in Shanghai last year. Chinese officials are trying to get mills to cut back on steel exports, which has led to trade disputes. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images. BEIJING—China's exports of steel products rose to a fresh record last
  2. Third country steel imports into Europe rose in July and August 2014, according to the latest EU customs statistics. Finished steel imports have risen 32% year-on-year compared with a 6% rise in Q1 and a 33% rise in Q2. According to EUROFER, this means 
  3. BEIJING--China's crude steel output in September totaled 67.54 million metric tons, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. The government said the volume was unchanged from a year earlier, though historical statistics show the volume rose 3.2% 

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