Top Steelmaker Nucor Wants U.S. to Cut Imports in Half Amid Glut

  • Nucor ready to pick up slack from reduced imports, CEO says
  • Ferriola expects to hear from Commerce on 232 ‘any day now’

John Ferriola, Nucor Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer, discusses the outlook for the steel industry with Bloomberg's Joe Deaux on 'Bloomberg Markets.' (Source: Bloomberg)

Nucor Corp., the biggest U.S. steelmaker, wants the Trump administration to restrict steel imports to a 10 percent to 15 percent share of the market to safeguard supply of the metal.

Chief Executive Officer John Ferriola said the Department of Commerce probably will find that imports pose a threat to national security in its Section 232 investigation. The end goal of any measures resulting from that probe should be that U.S. mills run at a capacity utilization rate of 85 percent to 87 percent, he said. That compares with the American Iron and Steel Institute gauge which is now at 74 percent.

Speaking in a Bloomberg Television interview on Tuesday, Ferriola said Nucor is ready to meet the needs of U.S. industry in terms of quantity and quality if further restrictions are imposed on foreign shipments.

“Bring it on,” Ferriola said on the sidelines of a steel conference in New York. He said any additional cost to users from blocking imports would be minimal.

Imports are accounting for about 27 percent of steel demand this year, according to Wood Mackenzie estimates.

Ferriola said he’s “encouraged” by President Donald Trump’s approach to the steel industry and expects to hear from Commerce regarding Section 232 “any day now.” U.S. steelmakers rallied last week after Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed that Trump intended to take “bold action” to address national-security risks presented by imports.

In a speech at the conference earlier Tuesday, Ferriola said global steel overcapacity isn’t improving with “artificial” supply growth in China mainly responsible.

Asked about Nucor’s own earnings outlook, he reiterated that strength seen early in the second quarter wasn’t sustained in the rest of the quarter. However, he said he “feels good” about the rest of 2017 and expects an improvement from 2016.

— With assistance by Steven Frank

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