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Why December Import Data Might Concern U.S. Steel Investors

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December imports data

Flat steel products consist of sheets and plates that are used in a wide range of industries. HRC (hot-rolled coil), CRC (cold-rolled coil), and HDG (hot dip galvanized) sheets are among the most widely used flat steel products. In 2016, the US slapped strict anti-dumping duties on the imports of these products from countries including China and Korea.

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Flat rolled imports

According to preliminary data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, CRC imports totaled nearly 202,000 metric tons in December 2016—a YoY (year-over-year) rise of 16.1%. But imports fell more steeply than in November. Notably, CRC imports touched a 25-month high in November, and HRC imports fell 45% YoY in December to multiyear lows. However, HDG imports rose almost 47% YoY in December.

OCTG imports

We saw a sharp increase in OCTG (oil country tubular goods) imports last month, when imports more than tripled in volume from the year before. We should note that OCTG products are used in the energy industry. OCTG imports have been on a falling trend as the demand nosedived following the steep decline in energy prices.

The steep increase in OCTG imports is especially worrisome for U.S. Steel (X) because the company is the leading supplier in this space. Tenaris (TS) and Nucor (NUE) also supply to the energy industry.

Meanwhile, US steel prices (MT) (AKS) have been riding higher since Trump’s election. In the next part, we’ll examine how US steel prices are looking so far in 2017.

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