Steel Output Down in April, but Recovery is On Track

May 24, 2017
Tonnage decreased -1.0% from the previous month, but still 5.0% higher year/year

April 2017 raw-steel production slipped by 1.0% from March to April, finishing the most recent month with 142.1 million metric tons across 67 countries. Still, the total is an increase of 5.0% over the April 2016 result and brings global year-to-date steel production to 550.84 million metric tons, 5.2% better than the January-April 2016 total.

Global raw steel production is stabilizing in China and other major regional markets, after several years of weak demand, though the April results halted the steady improvement of previous months.

These figures are supplied by the World Steel Association, which tracks global raw steel production and capacity utilization on a monthly basis. Raw (or crude) 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. World Steel reports tonnage and capacity utilization data for carbon and carbon alloy steel in 67 countries; data for production of stainless and specialty alloy steels are not included.

The April totals reconfirm that the global steel industry has recovered from a nearly three-year long period of weak demand and excess capacity. Even so, a mid-range forecast of steel demand suggests that the recovery will be modest, as political and industrial-market ambiguity (particularly in China) persist through 2017 and 2018.

The most recent’ month’s raw-steel capacity utilization rate for the 67 countries in World Steel’s coverage was 73.6%, up 1.7% over the March rate and up 2.5% over the April 2016 rate.

The positive global results are largely the result of improved activity in China, by far the world’s largest steelmaking industry. Chinese steelmakers produced 72.78 million metric tons of raw steel during April, an increase of 1.1% over the previous month but 4.9% more than last April’s result. Through the first four months of 2017, China’s steel industry has produced 273.87 million metric tons of raw steel, 4.6% more than the January-April 2016 total.

In Japan, April raw-steel output slipped 1.5% from March to 8.8 million metric tons during April, but that represents an increase of 3.0% over April 2016.  For the year-to-date, Japanese producers’ raw-steel production total is 34.98 million metric tons, just 1.9% more than during the comparable period of last year.

The Indian steel industry produced 8.06 million metric tons last month, 3.2% less than during March and 4.8% more than during April 2016. The year-to-date tonnage total in India is 33.16 million metric tons, 7.1% more than during January-April 2016.

In South Korea, raw steel production for April 2017 fell 5.6% from March to 5.48 million metric tons during April, a decrease of 2.9% versus the April 2016 result. Through four months, South Korean steelmakers have produced 22.75 million metric tons, 2.8% ahead of the year-ago pace.

In the E.U., raw steel production fell 4.8% from March to April, totaling 14.296 million metric tons across the 28 nations. That represents a 6.1% increase over last April’s tonnage, and raises the year-to-date total to 56.84 million metric tons, an increase of 4.5% over 2016.

Germany, which has the largest steel industry in the E.U., had raw steel production of 3.84 million metric tons for April, down only slightly (-0.9%) from March but up 8.1% from April 2016. Germany’s year-to-date increase over 2016’s tonnage is 3.4%.

Italy, also a regional steelmaking power, had output of 1.976 million metric tons during April, falling 11.5% from the March total and 6.0 from the April 2016 total. Even so, for the January-April period the Italian steelmakers have increased their output 2.5% over the comparable period of 2016.

The French steel industry had a raw-steel output of 1.26 million metric tons during April, 5.1% less than during March but 30.8% more than the April 2016 output. The four-month total for 2017 is 5.17 million metric tons, 8.9% higher than during the Jan.-April 2016 period.

In Spain, steelmakers produced 1.19 million metric tons during April, falling 13.5% below the March total and 2.8% below the April 2016 total. The year-to-date total, however, is nearly even (-0.1%) with the Jan.-April 2016 result.

Raw steel production in Russia during April totaled 6.2 million metric tons, 2.3% less than during the prior month but 4.3% more than during April 2016. The year-to-date total for Russian steelmakers is now 6.21 million metric tons, 3.4% more than during the comparable period of 2016.

In Ukraine, however, the raw-steel output fell 11.9% from March to April, to 1.57 million metric tons. That figure is 28.6% less than last April’s result, and puts the Ukrainian industry 13.8% behind last year’s running total.

The Turkish industry’s raw steel production for April 2017 was 3.0 million metric tons, down 2.7% from March but up 6.5% versus April 2016. For the Jan.-April 2017 period, Turkey’s steelmakers have produced 11.8 million metric tons, 12.0% more than over the comparable period of 2016.

The Brazilian steelmakers produced 2.89 million metric tons of steel during April, 1.7% more than during March and 25.9% more than during April 2016. Their year-to-date production total is 11.14 million metric tons, 14.4% more than during Jan.-April 2016.

Finally, the U.S. steel industry produced 6.72 million metric tons (7.40 million short tons) during April, down 2.6% from the March result but 1.8% over the April 2016 figure. For the Jan.-April 2017 period, the U.S. steelmakers have produced 27.01 million metric tons (29.77 million short tons) of raw steel, which is 2.9% more than the comparable 2016 result.

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