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WorldSteel April 2019 "circles" World Steel Assn.
April 2019 global raw-steel output for 64 countries, with circles sized proportionally to the individual nations’ respective output.

Slowdown Setting in for Global Steel Output

Chinese tonnages continue to grow, while market conditions begin to fulfill forecast conditions

Steel production rose slightly in April to 156.67 million metric tons worldwide, a rise of 0.98% from March but 6.02% higher than the April 2018 output. The latest figures bring the year-to-date global raw-steel production total to 599.9 million metric tons, 4.8% more than was produced worldwide during January-April 2018.

The data is reported by the World Steel Assn. in its monthly raw-steel production report for 64 countries, or about 99% of the world’s installed raw-steel capacity. While April’s month-to-month, year-to-year, and year-to-date totals are all positive, there is an apparent slowdown underway in steel demand.

That slowing is in line with the recent short-term forecast issued by World Steel recently, which projected total consumption of steel will increase just 1.3% year-over-year for 2019 to 1.735 billion metric tons. Expansion will be even smaller in 2020, it predicted, rising just 1.0% year-over-year to 1.752 billion metric tons.

There is no slowing apparent in the Chinese market – by far the world’s largest raw-steel producer, and the only one among the largest steel producing nations to post positive growth in the current month, year-over-year, and year-to-date.

China’s raw steel production for April 2019 was 85.03 million metric tons, 5.7% more than during March and 12.7% higher than the April 2018 tonnage. For the January-to-April period, Chinese steelmakers have produced 85.03 million metric tons of raw steel – an increase of 10.1% over last year.

Elsewhere, all the largest steel-producing nations in Asia and Europe reported production declines from March to April. And, only two of the largest producing nations (India and Turkey) posted year-over-year increases.

By contrast, U.S. steelmakers’ raw-steel production fell 3.36% from March to 7.4 million metric tons (8.2 million short tons) during April. That still represents a 6.8% increase over April 2018, and it raises the U.S. year-to-date output 6.7% to 29.6 million metric tons (32.6 million short tons.)

Raw steel is produced in basic-oxygen and electric-arc furnaces, and cast into semi-finished products, like billets, blooms, and slabs. Most raw steel is produced on contract for large manufacturers, like automotive, appliance, and machinery builders. Less predictable is the amount produced for construction markets or for service centers and distributors.

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