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Pandemic Plunges Global Steel Output

May 25, 2020
Global steel production fell -13.05% in April as manufacturing shut down in Asia, North America, and Europe to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, but Chinese output rose to 62.0% of the world's total output for the month – and remained nearly even with the ye

Steel production fell to 137.1 million metric tons during April 2020, down -6.9% from March and -13.05% from April 2019, as a result of the widespread plant shutdowns in Asia, North America, and Europe implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The noteworthy exception is China, by far the world's largest steelmaking nation, where April output topped 85 million metric tons — or 62.0% of the world's total output for the month.

The figures are supplied by the World Steel Assn., the trade association representing steelmakers worldwide. World Steel's report is a monthly summary of raw steel output in 64 countries: "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. The report covers carbon steel only; stainless and specialty steel producers comprise a separate market.

The sudden decline in output comes amid a general decline in progress since midway through 2019, a decline driven by weakening demand from industrial and construction sectors in most of the major national and regional economic sectors, and the onset of tariffs on steel products imported to the U.S.

China remains the exception to nearly all trends. With 85.033 million metric tons produced during April, China's steelmakers improved on their March output by 7.7%, and came in nearly even (+0.18%) with the April 2019 output. For the first four months of 2020, Chinese steelmakers have produced 319.46 million tons for the year-to-date, +1.3% more than during the comparable three-month period of 2019.

The Chinese industry's results for the current year-to-date represent about 55.0% of the world's total 2020 raw-steel output.

The April results have altered the rankings for the world's top steelmaking countries, with South Korea rising to third place and India dropping to sixth place.

Japan's industry produced 6.6 million metric tons of raw steel in April 2020, down -16.8% from March and -23.5% from April 2019. Japan's year-to-date raw-steel output is 30.7 million metric tons, down -8.6% from the first quarter of 2019.

South Korean steelmakers produced 5.5 million metric tons during April, -4.78% less than during March and -8.35% less than during April 2019. During the January-April period, South Korea had raw-steel production totalling 22.44 million metric tons, which is -5.7% less than the 2019 result.

Russia's steelmakers rose into fifth place worldwide for April, with 4.7 million metric tons produced representing a -23.1% drop from March and a -19.4% drop from April 2019. With 22.88 million metric tons produced for the January-April period, Russia's steel industry has fallen -4.4% below the 2019 pace.

India's steel industry has been the world's second-largest for the past several years, but it produced 3.14 million metric tons of raw steel during April, -60.97% less than during March and -65.2% lower than during April 2019. For the year-to-date, Indian steelmakers have produced 30.55 million metric tons, or -21.1% less than during January-April 2019.