There is good news and bad for domestic steel producers in the latest trade statistics, Iron Age Magazine reports. Steel imports fell to a little over 1.1 million tons in March. That was down from nearly 1.7 million tons in February.It was the lowest import total since April, 1979.
For domestic steel producers, the good side of the import downturn is that it relieves pressure on the market. Domestic steelmakers had feared the recession now under way would be compounded for them by rising imports.
The March drop in imports does not entirely dispel this fear, Iron Age cautions. Import statistics tend to jump around, and a single month can't be taken as evidence of a trend. However, there are widespread reports that foreign steel movements will be relatively light throughout the second quarter.
While this is good news to domestic producers, it also means the drop in total demand is even sharper than it had appeared. Shipments of domestic mills will fall from 24.5 million tons in the first quarter to 22 million or 23 million tons in the second quarter.
If imports continue at the March rate in the second quarter, foreign deliveries will be down nearly a million tons in total steel supply.
Coming in a quarter that is supposed to see a seasonal upturn in steel consumption, such a decline would mean there is, indeed, a serious recession under way, the magazine points out.