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China Steel Output Slowing as Others Rebound

Aug. 29, 2021
Worldwide steel production fell for the third consecutive month, but tonnages continue to rise for major producer nations other than China as steelmakers resume their pre-pandemic levels of activity.

Global steel output fell in July for the third consecutive month, to 161.7 million metric tons, down -3.8% from June but still 3.3% higher than the July 2020 total. The tonnages produced in the major steelmaking nations – as reported by the World Steel Assn. – indicate some month-to-month output declines that are likely seasonal, though the year-over-year results show a notable decrease in July 2021 output from China’s steel industry.

Through seven months of production, the year-to-date total for global steel tonnage is 1.165 billion metric tons, or 12.4% more than the January-July 2020 global output.

The World Steel Assn. collects monthly steel output from 64 nations, representing about 98% of global raw-steel output – meaning carbon steel, produced in basic-oxygen or electric arc furnaces and cast into semi-finished forms like billets for bar and rod products; slabs for flat products; or blooms, for beam and pipe products. Specialty and stainless steel are accounted separately.

With an established raw-steel capacity that is effectively double the total of the rest of the world, China has well-exceeded its share of the total global output since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – as producers elsewhere in Asia, in North America and in Europe reduced their outputs in response to weaker demand from consuming industries. However, with its monthly output slowing during Q2 2021, China appears to be resuming its more typical role in the global industry, while other nations’ industries are posting double-digit rises in year-over-year production.

During July, China’s steel industry produced 86.8 million metric tons, -8.2% less than the total reported for June, and down -8.4% versus the July 2020 output. China’s seven-month output for 2021 is 649.3 million metric tons, still 8.0% higher than last year’s comparable total.

Indian steelmakers (who represent the world’s second-largest national industry) produced 9.8 million metric tons during July, 8.8% more than during June and 13.3% more than during July 2020. Their January-July tonnage total is 68.0 million metric tons, 28.7% more than during the first seven months of 2020.

In Japan, July raw-steel output fell -1.25% from June to 8.0 million metric tons, which is 32.5% higher than the July 2020 output. For the current year-to-date, Japanese raw-steel output is 56.1 million metric tons, an increase of 16.2 million metric tons compared to 2020.

The U.S. has the world’s fourth-largest steel industry. With a July output of 7.5 million metric tons (8.3 million short tons), U.S. steelmakers increased production by 5.3% over June, and 37.9% over their July 2020 results. For the year to-date, U.S. raw-steel production stands at 49.5 million metric tons (54.6 million short tons), which is 18.5% higher than the January-July 2020 total.

Russian steelmakers produced 6.7 million metric tons during June, 1.5% more than the reported June total, and estimated at 13.4% higher than the July 2020 total. With a reported 44.9 million metric tons produced for the current year to-date, the Russian industry is 8.7% ahead of its 2020 performance.

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