American steelmaker Nucor says that the overall operating rates at its steel mills increased to 81% during Q3 2014 compared with 79% in Q2 and 78% in Q3 2013. The company claims that its steel mill utilisation rate increased to 78% during the first nine months of 2014 compared with 74% for the same period in 2013.

The company claims that during Q3 2014 its total steel mill energy costs increased by roughly US$1 per ton when compared with Q2 2014 and Q3 of 2013. Energy costs for the first nine months of the year increased by US$2 per ton over the same period last year due to increased gas and electricity costs.

The average cost of scrap and scrap substitute used during Q3 2014 was down 1% to US$379/ton from US$384/ton in Q2 2014, but up 2% on the Q3 2013 price of US$372/ton.

"Overall operating performance at our steel mills segment for the third quarter was much improved compared to the second quarter of 2014 due to increased profitability in sheet, structural, bar and plate steel," said Nucor. "Structural steel had no major outages in the third quarter, as compared to the planned three week outage at Nucor-Yamato Steel in the second quarter associated with our US$115 million sheet piling capital project."

The company said that 'the strongest markets for the steel mills continue to be manufactured goods, including energy and automotive'.

Nucor's third quarter results were much improved from the second quarter and imports remain at high levels, applying downward pressure on pricing.