Factbox: Trump's steel trade tariffs

New York (Platts)--4 Mar 2018 1017 pm EST/317 GMT

The S&P Global Platts daily price assessment for US-made hot-rolled steel coil--the benchmark, bellwether product--closed March 2 at $800/st, ex-works, up $7.25 from March 1, a seven-year high. It was $825/st on May 16, 2011.

  • The latest price movement--up $23/st in two days--comes on the heels of the US planning to order tariffs of 25% on steel imports the week of March 5.
  • President Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel (and 10% on aluminum) from all countries is moderately positive for US-based steel and aluminum producers, according to S&P Global RatingsDirect. "Such actions will encourage domestic production, raise utilization rates, and keep domestic prices elevated over the next two to three years," write S&P's primary credit analysts.
  • During the week of February 19, the domestic steel industry's utilization rate was the highest in more than three years--76.5%. The US Commerce Department maintains that an 80% utilization rate is the threshold for the domestic industry's long-term viability.
Projected US steel output (million st)
(Based on AISI weekly raw steel data; assumes annual capacity of 121 million st)
Weekly Utilization Weekly Production (million st) Annualized Production (million st)
77% 1.78 92.56
80% 1.86 96.79
85% 1.98 102.84
90% 2.09 108.89
Source: S&P Global Platts

  • The European Union said it will impose trade countermeasures against US-produced goods in retaliation to new US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
  • Trump's decision to impose a 25% tariff on all steel imports is against World Trade Organization rules and the European Union must respond swiftly to protect it from redirected trade flows, German steel federation WV Stahl said.
  • Canada's inclusion in a blanket 25% tariff of steel imported into the US would be "absolutely unacceptable," Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of foreign affairs said Thursday.
  • Trump would not comment this week on whether or not NAFTA partners will be exempt from the blanket tariffs. He said details were still being worked out.
  • The proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports couldn't come at a worse time, American International Automobile Dealers Association President Cody Lusk said in a statement. "Auto sales have flattened in recent months, and manufacturers are not prepared to absorb a sharp increase in the cost to build cars and trucks in America," Lusk said.
  • The White House has been reviewing steel-import restriction recommendations made in January by the US Commerce Department under Section 232, part of Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
  • Initiated by the Commerce Department in April 2017, Section 232 investigations are used to determine the impact of imports on national security.
  • In 2017, the US imported about 37 million short tons of steel--up 14.8% over 2016. Here is a breakdown by country of origin:
Canada 16.5%
Brazil 13.6%
S. Korea 9.9%
Mexico 9.3%
Russia 8.4%
Turkey 5.8%
Japan 4.9%
Germany 4.0%
Taiwan 3.1%
China 2.1%
Source: S&P Global Platts, based on US Census Bureau data

  • US producers melted and finished nearly 90 million short tons--up 4% over 2016.
  • The US relies on steel imports to meet both qualitative and quantitative demand. The biggest importers, as a group, are several American mills themselves who brought in 7.5 million mt of semi-finished steel last year. Such semis give the domestic mills production flexibility and can shave production costs when processed into finished steels.
  • There is no indication yet if the tariffs will apply to semi-finished steels. or other raw materials.
  • Since Trump was sworn in, the price of US-made, hot-rolled coil has averaged $636 per ton, based on Platts Market Data.

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