Imports in February remained at healthy levels, essentially unchanged from final imports in January, rising only 1,000 net tons to 3.511 million net tons in February, based on preliminary steel import data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Total steel imports in February 2006 were 3.51 million tons compared to 3.51 million tons in January 2006--a 0% increase--and a 30.7% decrease compared to February 2005.

According to year-to-date figures for two months, imports increased 26.1% compared to 2005, or from 5.57 million tons in 2005 to 7.02 million tons in 2006. The data show that semi-finished imported products increased by 32.3% in February 2006 as compared to February 2005. For the year-to-date period, semi-finished imports have increased from 1.36 million tons in 2005 to 1.8 million tons in 2006, a 32.6% increase, based on preliminary reporting.

Compared to 2005, when the year-to-date period included high inventory levels that were depressing order books and import arrivals, imports were up 26.1% in the first two months of 2006. This second strong monthly report for imports clearly reflects robust underlying U.S. demand, low inventories and large price differentials when the February imports were ordered, three to five months prior. Likewise, imports from Russia and the EU rose in response to strong demand and large price differentials.

Further AIIS expectations for the import market are available in the monthly survey online at