July 2, 2018

U.S. Steel Imports Decline Dramatically


  • Imports of steel into the United States fell in May due to “uncertainty surrounding the Section 232 tariffs on steel imports,” American Metal Market (AMM, subscription required) reported last week. Imports declined 23.1 percent between April 2018 and May 2018 and 16.7 percent between May 2017 and May 2018. AMM said, “Despite the fall in imports, finished steel import penetration is still elevated at an estimated 25 percent in May and approximately 26 percent year to date.”
  • The United States economy expanded two percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared to 2.9 percent in the previous quarter (the last quarter of 2017). In other growth-related news: the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s National Activity Index, a key indicator of future growth, was -0.15 in May, down from +0.42 in April.
  • Regional manufacturing surveys remained strong last month. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas announced last week that the manufacturing sector in Texas continued to expand in June, but at a slower pace. The bank’s production index fell declined 12 points to 23.3, signaling a deceleration in output growth. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City announced its manufacturing reading was largely unchanged from May to June, but factory activity increased at durable and nondurable goods plants, particularly for computer, electronics, and food products. Finally, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond said its reading, for the Central Atlantic region of the United States, rose from +16 in May to +20 in June, buoyed by an increase in all three components (shipments, new orders, and employment). The bank said firms also saw an increase in backlog of orders and respondents were optimistic in June, expecting growth to continue across most indicators.
  • According to the U.S. Labor Department, the number individuals who filed for federal unemployment benefits for the first time rose to 227,000 for the week that ended June 23 from 218,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims also increased while the number of individuals who continued to receive benefits on a weekly basis fell to 1.705 million for the week that ended June 16. The four-week moving average of continuing claims also declined and now is at its lowest level since December 1973.
  • In other economic news: personal incomes in the United States increased 0.4 percent from April 2018 to May 2018 while personal consumption rose 0.2 percent; sales of new homes in the United States increased 6.7 percent between April and May and 14.1 percent year-over-year; and the Conference Board’s and the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment indexes both declined in June.