Laurentiu Iordache | Dreamstime
Hot steel bar at con caster runout.

World’s Steelmakers Maintaining Production Discipline

Aug. 28, 2023
Global steel tonnage has remained effectively unchanged for four consecutive months, as weak prices and uncertain demand raise questions about the industry’s forecast rebound.

Global steel production fell only slightly from June to July, dropping just -0.2% to 158.5 million metric tons in the latest monthly summary from the World Steel Assn. The monthly output results have been generally consistent since March, indicating steelmakers worldwide are limiting their output in order to achieve some discipline over excess supply and weak prices.

Even so, the current rate of production has stabilized higher than the 2022 rate, so that the year-over-year results for July 2023 are 6.6% higher than the 2022 figure, although the year-to-date total for January-July is even (-0.1%) with last year’s total.

World Steel’s report summarizes the production results for 63 countries, representing 97.0% of global steel capacity. The report covers 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 volumes are not included.)

The current rate of production is trailing the pace forecast for 2023 demand in World Steel’s recent outlook report: It projects 2023 steel demand rising 2.3% to 1.82 billion metric tons, and then improving further by 1.7% to 1.85 billion metric tons for 2024. Despite that forecast, falling industrial demand and weak construction activity, and the expectation of economic recession, appear to be directing steelmakers production plans.

These results for the top steelmaking nations are indicative of the pattern. Chinese steelmakers produced 90.8 million metric tons of raw steel during July, barely less (-0.3%) than during June – but 11.5% more than their total for July 2022. For the year-to-date, China’s steel industry has produced 626.5 million metric tons, which is 2.5% more than the seven-month total for 2022.

Steelmakers in India produced 11.5 million metric tons during July, 2.6% more than their June output, and 14.3% higher than the July 2022 record. Through July, Indian steelmakers’ 2023 output totals 79.9 million metric tons, a 9.0% improvement.

In Japan, steelmaking output ticked up 1.4% from June to July, and the total is 0.9% ahead of the July 2022 result. For the January-July period, Japanese steelmakers have produced 51.2 million metric tons of raw steel, -3.9% less than during the comparable period of last year.

U.S. steelmakers’ July production total was 6.9 million metric tons (7.6 million short tons), 1.4% more than during June and just 0.5% more than during July 2022. For the current year to-date, U.S. raw steel production stands at 46.8 million metric tons ( 51.6 million short tons), which is -2.3% less than during January-July 2022.