Recovery Starting for Global Steel Production

Sept. 8, 2020
Chinese steel production now totals more than the rest of the world's combined output, but steelmakers in the U.S. and other large producers have begun to post month-by-month output increases.

Global steel production totaled 152.7 million metric tons during July, increasing 2.7% from June as most of the world resumes manufacturing and construction programs following widespread outages undertaken to address the spread of the Coronavirus. Even so, total year-to-date raw steel output remains down -5.3% versus the comparable 2019 result, at 1.03 billion metric tons for January-July 2020.

The results 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.

China's steel production volume stands in contrast to the global trend. Chinese steelmakers have rebounded aggressively from a shutdown in March, posting 93.6 million metric tons produced during July, up 1.9% from June but up 9.1% from July's 2019 result. Through the first seven months of 2020, China's steel industry has produce 593.2 million metric tons, which is 2.8% above its January-July 2019 output.

Most of rest of the world's major steelmaking nations have begun to increase their output, though the industry has a whole was enduring reduced demand prior to the pandemic outbreak. The World Steel Assn. in June forecast that 2020 global steel demand will drop -6.4% year-over-year, declining to 1.654 billion metric tons, and then rise 3.8% year-over-year to 1.717 billion metric tons for 2021.

Other than China, the world's major steelmaking nations remain well-behind their July 2019 output: India, -24.6%; Japan, -27.9%, Russia, -5.0%; and South Korea, -8.3%. The European Union's year-to-date output is down-24.4% year over year and -19.2% year-to-date, with most of the major producing nations in that region also posting double-digit declines.

U.S. raw-steel production during July rose 5.9% over June to 5.24 million metric tons (5.78 million short tons), which is -29.4% lower than the July 2019 total. For the January-July period, U.S. raw-steel output stands at 41.64 million metric tons (45.9 million short tons), down -19.5% from the seven-month total for 2019.