For the month of December, in which the domestic steel industry was operating at an average capacity utilization rate of only 75 percent, the U.S. imported nearly 3 million tons of steel. Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported that the U.S. imported 2, 988,000 net tons (NT) of steel in December 2006, including 2,453,000 NT of finished steel (down 13 and 12 percent, respectively, vs. November's final data). Total and finished imports (at 45.3 and 35.9 million NT, respectively) set all-time records in 2006--up 41 and 43 percent, respectively, compared to 2005. Key products with large increases in December compared to the month before included heavy structural shapes (up 72 percent), galvanized electrolytic sheet and strip (up 71 percent), bars-light shapes (up 30 percent), and tin plate (up 11 percent).
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