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Global Steel Output Steady, but Contracting

Nov. 28, 2021
The world’s steelmakers produced 145.7 million metric tons during October, but the big picture shows Chinese producers reducing their volumes while Japanese, EU, and U.S. operators stabilize after the pandemic crisis.

Global steel production rose slightly in October, up 0.9% from September to 145.7 million metric tons, as steelmakers in much of the world maintained a steady pace. However, the latest figure is also -10.6% lower than the October 2020 total, indicating the global effects of the Chinese steel industry continuing to cut its output.

All the tonnage data is supplied by the World Steel Assn., which tracks raw-steel output for 64 countries representing about 98% of global steel production – 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.

The October total brings the year-to-date global steel production volume to 1.607 billion metric tons, which is 5.9% ahead of the pandemic-marked figures for 2020. Regional results for most of Asia, Europe, and North America indicate a return to normal market conditions after the anomalous results of last year.

Last month World Steel issued an updated near-term outlook for global steel demand, reducing the current-year forecast by 200 million metric tons to 1.85 billion metric tons; and cutting its 2022 forecast by 500 million metric tons to 1.89 billion metric tons – both figures anticipating further retraction in Chinese steel output.

China is by far the world’s largest steelmaking nation, having produced roughly half of all the steel manufactured worldwide for more than a decade. During 2020, that global market share increased considerably – as demand from industrial and construction sectors in other parts of the world flattened due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, however, China’s producers are responding to tighter government restrictions on real-estate and infrastructure projects, as well as a specific government cap on steel output. Their monthly tonnages slipped by double-digit percentages for three consecutive months prior to October, and the current monthly figure of 71.6 million metric tons represents more of a leveling off – down just 2.9% from September.

However, the October figure is -23.3% lower than the October 2020 report, and China’s year-to-date output of 877.1 million metric tons is nearly even (-0.7%) with the January-October 2020 total.

India, the second-largest steelmaking nation, produced 9.8 million metric tons during October, 3.1% higher than the September total and 2.4% higher than the October 2020 result. Through 10 months, Indian steelmakers have produced 96.9 million metric tons, or 20.5% more than during January-October 2020.

Japanese producers’ October output of 8.2 million metric tons remained on pace (+1.2%) with September and is 14.3% higher than last October’s total. For the year to-date, Japan’s steel industry has produced 80.4 million metric tons of raw steel, 17.5% more than during the comparable period of 2020.

The U.S. steel industry’s October production totaled 7.5 million metric tons (8.27 million short tons), 2.7% more than during September and 20.5% more than during October 2020. For January-October 2021, U.S. steelmakers have produced 71.7 million metric tons (79.03 million short tons) of raw steel, 19.6% more than during the first 10 months of 2020.

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