U.S. Steel Saved From Worst Year Ever as Metal Rout Cuts Imports

Steel prices in the U.S. have dropped so much that imports are finally declining. That’s giving shares of U.S. Steel Corp. some relief in a year that was shaping up to be the worst in decades.

U.S. Steel surged 14 percent at 2:12 p.m., heading for a 26 percent two-day gain, which would be the biggest since December 2008. AK Steel Holding Corp. rallied 15 percent and Nucor Corp. rose 4.4 percent in the same span. U.S. Steel had lost 73 percent in the year through Wednesday, which would have been its worst year since at least 1992 when Bloomberg records begin.

While the metal’s price has plummeted 41 percent in the past year, mill capacity utilization, or the amount of a plant that is in use, rose 2.8 percentage points last week, the American Iron and Steel Institute said this week. The uptick is the first since September, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. On Wednesday, AK Steel and the U.S. subsidiary of Novolipetsk Steel OJSC announced they would raise prices.

Steel imports have been lower than a year ago in each of the six months through October, the most recent month for which the U.S. Census Bureau has published data. Through October, imports of 30.7 million tons are 3.9 percent higher than a year ago.

“The good news is that steel imports have tapered substantially,” Lee McMillan, a New York-based analyst at Clarksons Platou Securities, said in a research note Thursday. “Thanks in part to the threat of antidumping tariffs, but also due to the drastic decline in domestic pricing, we’ve seen a measurable decline in steel imports in the fourth quarter.”

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