2009 Global Stainless Output Down, But Recovering

Significant rebound noted in second quarter

The International Stainless Steel Forum, a global trade association for stainless steel producers, reports that first-half 2009 output of the specialty metal declined by 26.7% compared to the first six months of 2008. Total production for January-July 2009 was 10.8 million metric tons.

However, ISSF stated that increased output in the second quarter versus the first “indicates that a significant recovery in stainless steel production may have begun.” Producers in Eastern Europe and North and South America did not contribute to this trend, but second-quarter stainless steel output in Asia and China increased almost 30% over first-quarter production. In Western Europe/Africa the increase in output was 20% for the same period.

Also, comparing the market shares of the main stainless steel grades reveals a demand recovery for austenitic steels (300 series) versus 2008. The 2008 market share for 300 stainless was 60.5%; it was 62.1% in the first half of 2009. Demand also increased for chromium-manganese steels (200 series), from 28.1% in 2008 to 24.8% in the first half of 2009, largely due to an improved domestic market in China.

The market share for ferritic grades (400 series) has fallen, from 28.1% in 2008 to 24.8% in the first half of 2009, apparently due to a decline in global automotive output, according to ISSF.

Of the five regions tracked by ISSF — the Americas, Asia (excluding China), China, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe/Africa — only China increased stainless steel output in the first half of this year. The same effect was noted in carbon steel production, as tracked by ISSF’s partner trade organization, the World Steel Assn.

China increased its stainless steel output in the first half by 5.3%, to 4.1 million metric tons. In part as a result of this, China now accounts for nearly 40% of the world’s stainless steel production, according to ISSF. Excluding China, stainless steel production in Asia declined by 34% to 3 million metric tons in the first half of 2009. All stainless producing countries (except China) were affected. From one country to another, the reductions in production volume ranged from 10-50%.

In the Western Europe/Africa region, producers decreased their stainless steel output by -40.5% during the first six months of 2009. Total regional output was 2.9 million metric tons in this period, down from 4.9 million metric tons for the first half of 2008.

In North and South America region, stainless steel output declined -40.6% to 800,000 metric tons in the first half of 2009.

In Eastern Europe, stainless steel production declined -48.6% to 100,000 metric tons.

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