Industry Market Trends

Global Steel Output Flat in September

Oct 23, 2012

Worldwide crude steel production remained relatively unchanged between August and September, with output also flat compared to September 2011. However, the year-to-date total for steel production remained higher than the total for the first nine months of last year.

Global crude steel production stood at 124 million tons in September, unchanged from August and matching the total for September 2011, according to the latest report from the World Steel Association (worldsteel). Total steel production so far this year for the 62 countries tracked by worldsteel - representing roughly 85 percent of global steel output - reached 1.15 billion tons, up 0.6 percent from the total for the first nine months of 2011.

The capacity utilization rate among steel manufacturers rose to 77.7 percent in September from 75.5 percent in August. Compared to September 2011, capacity utilization was 2.5 percentage points lower.

The latest figures indicate that steel production has stabilized following recent month-to-month declines in most of the major steel-producing regions of the world. As in 2011, output has slowed somewhat after hitting a mid-year peak.

Steel output from China, the world's largest steel producer, fell to 58 million tons in September, down slightly from 58.7 million tons in August but up 0.6 percent from September 2011.

"A slowdown in economic growth in China, the world's top steel producer, has hit demand for steel products - widely used in construction, manufacturing, household appliances and car making. Domestic prices hit a three-year low in early September," Reuters notes. "However, a seasonal pick-up in demand on the back of increased construction activity has helped rebar prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rebound by more than 10 percent since early September."

Elsewhere in Asia, Japanese production fell to 8.8 million tons, down from 9.2 million tons in August and 1 percent below the prior-year level. South Korea's crude steel production in September was 5.6 million tons, down from 5.7 million tons the previous month but up 1.8 percent compared to September 2011.

In the first nine months of the year, Asian countries produced 748.6 million tons of crude steel, an increase of 1.5 percent over the same period in 2011.

Meanwhile, major steel producers in the European Union posted monthly gains in September, but output fell below prior-year levels. Germany's crude steel production totaled 3.6 million tons last month, up from 3.4 million tons in August but down 2.2 percent from September 2011. Italy produced 2.4 million tons of steel, double the 1.2 million ton total in August but 15.5 percent below the total for the same month last year. Spain produced 1.2 million tons, up from 1 million in August and 10.3 percent lower than in September 2011.

Manufacturers in the E.U. produced a combined total of 129.6 million tons of crude steel in the first three quarters of 2012, a 4.6 percent drop from the comparable period in 2011.

Steel production in the United States dipped in September, with monthly output falling to 7 million tons of crude steel last month, down from 7.5 million tons in August and 3 percent below the level for September 2011. So far this year, U.S. steelmakers have produced 68.2 million tons of crude steel, 5.3 percent more than in the first nine months of last year.

In August, U.S. steel producers posted strong growth in output, which was also reflected in steel shipments, which reached 8.38 million tons a 5.9 percent increase from July 2012, and a 0.9 percent increase from over the total for August 2011, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. For the first eight months of the year, steel mills shipped 66.4 million tons, a 9.8 percent increase from the same period in 2011.

However, U.S. steel products experienced a slowdown in September, with shipments from metals service centers falling to 3 million tons, a decline of 9.5 percent from September 2011, the Metals Service Center Institute reports (subscription required). Year-to-date shipments totaled 32.1 million tons, 3.3 percent above the same period last year.

Meanwhile, steel product inventories reached 8.8 million tons at the end of September, an increase of 3.1 percent over the previous year but down 2.1 percent from August. At current shipping rates, steel inventories represent a 2.8-month supply.