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Global Steel Tonnage Evening Up as 2021 Ends

Dec. 26, 2021
As China takes steps to slow excess growth, steel industries in the U.S. and elsewhere are outpacing 2020 by double-digit margins.

Global steel production slipped to 143.3 million metric tons in November, down -1.7% from the October total and -9.9% from November 2020, according to figures supplied by the World Steel Assn. The month-to-month decline continues a slowing trend that is mainly confined to China – but relevant on the worldwide basis owing to the overwhelming scale of the steelmaking industry there.

The slowing also matches the updated near-term outlook for global steel demand issued by World Steel in October, reducing the 2021 forecast by 200 million metric tons to 1.85 billion metric tons; and cutting the 2022 forecast by 500 million metric tons to 1.89 billion metric tons – both figures anticipating further retraction in Chinese steel output.

By contrast, steelmakers in other developed regions – notably the U.S., European Union, and Japan – are regaining the production rates that dropped as manufacturing and construction activities paused and slowed during 2020.

The World Steel Assn. 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 declining output in China is attributed to tighter controls on the domestic industry by central planners, who aim to avoid over-supply as well as to slow excessive expansion in industrial and construction sectors.

Chinese steelmakers produced 69.3 million metric tons of raw steel during November, -3.3% less than their October output and -22.0% less than the November 2020 result. For the year to-date, China’s industry has produced 946.4 million metric tons of raw steel, which is -2.6% less than its output for January-November 2020.

At the same time, India’s steel industry produced 9.8 million metric tons during November, the same total reported for October’s output. It represents a 2.2% rise over November 2020 production and brings the 11-month total for India to 107.3 million metric tons – or 19.3% more than during the comparable period of 2020.

Japan’s steelmakers produce 8.0 million metric tons during November, a -2.5% decrease from October but a 10.7% increase over November 2020. For the current year-to-date, the Japanese industry has produced 88.4 million metric tons of raw steel, which is 16.8% higher than the 11-month total for 2020.

In the U.S., November steel output totaled 7.2 million metric tons (7.94 million short tons), -4.2% less than the October result but 13.8% above the November 2020 total. For the January-November period, U.S. steelmakers have produced 78.8 million metric tons (86.9 million short tons), or 18.9% more than during the same 11-month period of 2020.

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