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China Driving Global Steel Tonnage Increase

Dec. 22, 2019
November totals indicate that apparently expanding demand there, and the scale of the domestic, is driving a nominal global expansion despite weak industrial and construction demand

Global steel production decreased -1.0% from October to November, totaling 147.8 million metric tons for the latest month, according to the World Steel Assn. That indicates the current (January-November 2019) total for raw-steel output is 1.68 billion metric tons, rising 2.7% over the comparable period of 2019.

The totals make clear that steel production outside of China has been essentially even with the 2018 results, though the scale of Chinese steel production and the apparently more significant demand in that market has inched global production above the year-ago level.

The figures appear to be in line with the recent short-term forecast issued recently by World Steel, which projected total 2019 global steel output at 1.775 billion metric tons, 3.9% higher year-over-year, mainly due to unexpected strength in Chinese steel consumption. While global economic picture remains unclear due to weak sectoral demand and the threat of trade barriers, steel production is overshadowed by the scale of Chinese steel production: the Chinese industry represents about half of the installed global capacity for raw. According to World Steel, steel demand in China will grow by 7.8% this year to 900.1 million metric tons — whereas the rest of the world will see just 0.2% growth to 874.9 million metric tons.

The Association's monthly report on steel output incorporates the results of raw-steel production in 64 countries worldwide. "Raw steel" is the product of 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.

China’s raw steel production for November 2019 was 80.3 million metric tons, a decrease of -1.5% from October but still 3.8% higher than the November 2018 result. Through 11 months of 2019, Chinese steelmakers have produced 904.18 million metric tons, 7.0% more than last year's January-November output.

Indian steelmakers produced 8.9 million metric tons of raw steel in November, down just -0.6% from October and -2.8% versus November 2018. YTD output for the Indian industry is 101.95 million metric tons last month, a 2.0% improvement over January-November 2018.

The Japanese steel industry produced 7.7 million metric tons of raw steel in November 2019, dropping -4.9% from the October total and -11.8% versus November 2018. That nation's 11-month total for 2019 is 8.66 million metric tons, a -4.5% drop from 2018.

In South Korea, raw steel production was 5.9 million metric tons during November 2019, a drop of -1.7% from October and of -0.5% from November 2018. For the year-to-date, the nation's raw-steel output is now 5.9 million metric tons, a decrease of just -0.45% from January-November 2018.

Steelmaking in the European Union is showing the effects of reduced industrial and construction sector demand: it fell -10.7% from November 2018 to November 2019, across the 28 member nations, and is down -4.2% through 11 months of the current year.

In Germany, the largest producer in the region, November production of 3.2 million metric tons is down -3.25% from October, and down -12.9% year-over-year. For the current year, German steelmakers' 11-month total is 37.1 million metric tons, down -5.4% versus January-November 2019.

Italian steelmakers produced 1.97 million metric tons of raw steel in November 2019, -11.4% less than in October and -14.75% less than in November 2018. The Italian YTD total is 21.8 million metric tons, or -4.4% less than the comparable total for 2018.

In France, the domestic industry produced 1.1 million metric tons in November, -6.4% less than in October and -22.3% less than in November 2018. The YTD total is 13.5 million metric tons,, an –5.1% decrease compared to January-November 2018.

The U.S. industry produced 7.2 million metric tons (7.9 million short tons) of raw steel during November, which is essentially even (-0.23%) with October and -2.3% lower than the November 2018 total. For the current year to-date, U.S. steelmakers have produced 80.6 million metric tons (88.8 million short tons) of raw steel, 1.9% more than during January-November 2018.