Global Steel Production is Flat, Off-Pace with 2015

July 31, 2016
At midyear, raw steel production fell 2.7% from May, trails six-month results from last year Capacity utilization, -3.3% China, -1.1% ytd U.S., +0.2% ytd
With overall demand declining in the Chinese market and other factors at work to restrain overcapacity, the Chinese steel industry has produced 1.1% less raw steel this year than during the comparable January-June period of 2015.

Global steel production remained mostly flat as 2016 reached its midpoint. For the month of June, total raw steel production for 66 countries reporting to the World Steel Assn. was 135,720,000 metric tons, a decline of 2.7% from May’s total and essentially even with the June 2015 result, +0.1%. Through six months of 2016, global raw steel tonnage stands at 794,849,000 metric tons, which is down 1.9% from the January-June 2015 totals.

The reporting is drawn from the latest monthly report issued by the World Steel Association, which has corporate members in all major steelmaking nations, and tracks raw-steel tonnage and capacity utilization from month to month. World Steel recently issued an outlook report for 2016 anticipating a year-on-year (-0.8%) decline in global steel demand, to an estimated 1.488 billion metric tons, following the -3.0% annual decline in the 2015 global steel production (1.62 billion metric tons.) 

Raw steel is the output of basic oxygen furnaces and electric arc furnaces that is cast into semi-finished products, such as slabs, blooms, or billets.  The Association reports tonnage and capacity utilization data for carbon and carbon alloy steel; data for production of stainless and specialty alloy steels are not included.

As with raw steel production, the June report showed global capacity utilization falling: the June 2016 capacity utilization rate was 69.4%, which is 2.0% lower than the May figure and 3.3% lower than the June 2015 result.

Steelmakers all over the world are influenced by conditions in the Chinese steel industry – which has produced about 50% of all the world’s steel annually over the past decade. While Chinese steelmakers have relied heavily on exports, the nation’s central planners are enforcing consolidation to reduce excess capacity, and all this is happening against a background of weak economic conditions in China, with only tepid demand for steel from industrial and construction customers.

Chinese raw steel production for June 2016 was 69.5 million metric tons, an increase of 1.7% compared to June 2015. For the year-to-date, the Chinese industry has produced 794.8 million metric tons, 1.9% less than the six-month total for last year.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan produced 8.8 million metric tons of raw steel in June, + 2.7% year/year. South Korea’s raw steel production was 5.5 million metric tons during June 2016, -6.7% versus June 2015. Indian steelmakers produced 7.8 million metric tons for June, up 3.9% year/year.

The European steel market also delivered weak returns. The largest producer there, Germany produced 3.7 million metric tons of raw steel during June 2016, 2.1% less than during June 2015.

Italian steelmakers produced 2.0 million metric tons of raw steel during June, 5.9% more than in June 2015. French producers’ output was 1.3 million metric tons, -5.1% compared to June 2015. In Spain, June raw-steel production totaled 1.1 million metric tons, 13.7% less than during June 2015.

The U.S. steel industry produced 6.8 million metric tons (7.5 million short tons) of raw steel during June 2016, 2.1% less than during May, and 0.1% less than during June 2015. For the year-to-date, U.S. steel production totaled 40.06 million metric tons (44.16 million short tons), which is just 0.2% more than was produced during the first six months of 2015.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)