China Still Driving Global Steel Expansion

Dec. 2, 2020
Worldwide steel production inched further higher during October, as China’s producers accounted for 76% of the total. Output in the U.S. and elsewhere continues to be hampered by pandemic-related disruptions to manufacturing and construction.

Global steel production continued to rise in October, totaling 161.9 million metric tons – 2.6% higher than the September total and 7.0% over the October 2019 result. While overall output continues hampered in U.S. and other major steelmaking nations due to pandemic-related disruptions to manufacturing and construction activity, the rise in output by Chinese steelmakers has propelled the global trend upward.

For the ten months of 2020, global steel production totals 1.51 billion metric tons, which is -2.0% lower than the January-October 2019 total.

All the figures are supplied by the World Steel Assn., which issues a monthly summary of raw-steel output in 64 countries. “Raw steel” refers to the output of basic oxygen furnaces and electric arc furnaces, mainly carbon and alloy steels, cast as billets, blooms, rounds, blooms, or slabs. Stainless steel is not included in the total. 

In October, World Steel issued its latest Short-Term Outlook forecast for 2020 and 2021, projecting that that steel demand will drop by -2.4% year-over-year for the current year, to 1.725 billion metric tons. For 2021, the group foresees steel demand recovering 4.1% year-over-year, to 1,795.1 million metric tons.

China’s steelmakers produced 92.2 million metric tons of raw steel during October 2020, slightly less (-0.4%) of the September result but 12.7% more than the October 2019 figure. The September tonnage figure represents nearly 76% of the world’s total output for the month – well above China’s typically dominant portion of the total.

For the current year to-date, Chinese raw-steel output stands at 873.9 million metric tons, 5.5% more than the 10-month total for 2019.

India, the world’s second-largest producer nation, reported 9.1 million metric tons of raw steel for October 2020, or just under 10% of the total reported by China. India’s October total is 3.1% higher than the September result, and slightly better than even (+0.9%) versus October 2019. The YTD result is 79.7 million metric tons, which is -14.4% behind the 10-month total for 2019.

Similarly, Japan’s steel industry improved 11.04% from September to October, producing 7.2 million metric tons. However, that total is -11.7% less than the October 2019 result, and brings the YTD total to 68.4 million metric tons, -18.4% less than last year’s comparable result.

U.S. steelmakers’ October production totaled 6.1 million metric tons (6.6 million short tons), 2.1% more than September’s total but a -15.3% drop in output compared to October 2019. For the current year-to-date, the U.S. industry has produced 59.9 million metric tons (66.0 million short tons) of raw steel, -18.4% less than the January-October 2019 total.

The Russian steel industry produced an estimated 6.05 million metric tons during October, 3.2% more than during September and 4.3% more than during October 2019. That country’s YTD raw-steel output is 59.3 million metric tons, nearly even (-0.8%) with the comparable total for 2019.

Across the European Union (28 nations), October steel production totaled 12.6 million metric tons, 13.5% higher than the September total, but -5.6% lower than October 2019. Major steel-producing nations in the region reported comparable figures (Germany, 0.0% versus September / +3.1% versus October 2019; Italy, +19.1% / -4.6%; France, +10.5% / -9.8%; Spain, +18.9% / -7.7%.)

The YTD result for EU region steel production is 112.0 million metric tons, -16.7% less than the comparable 2019 total.