The Washington-based American Iron & Steel Institute (AISI) says steelmakers in the United States produced 1.78 million tons of steel the week ending April 24, 2021, marking a 0.6 percent increase compared with the week before.
In terms of gauging the nation’s rebound from COVID-19 impacts, the steel output volume in the most recently completed week was 43.6 percent higher than the low output figure from the week ending April 24, 2020. That 2020 week was near the low point for U.S. steel output during the initial COVID-19 shutdowns. (The low point occurred the following week of 2020.)
The mill capability utilization, or capacity, rate was 78.4 percent the week ending April 24, 2021, up slightly from 78 percent the week before. One year ago, that rate had fallen to 55.4 percent.
Steel pricing—and to some extent scrap pricing—has soared in the first four months of 2021. At the ISRI2021 Ferrous Spotlight online session last week, Blake Hurtik of Argus Media cited market discipline by a more consolidated steel sector in the U.S. as a reason why the capacity rate has remained below 80 percent, even with near-record high steel prices.
A week earlier, at the Fastmarkets AMM Scrap, DRI & Minimills Conference, CEO Lourenco Goncalves of Cleveland-Cliffs predicted “a very consistent appreciation in scrap prices,” and said the metals and manufacturing sectors should accept the notion that “a ton of steel is worth more than a ton of bananas.”
Nearly four full months into 2021, steel output in the U.S. is up 2.1 percent compared with 2020. In the most recent week, the AISI’s Southern region was the leading producer of steel (744,000 tons), followed by the Great Lakes (611,000), the Midwest (189,000), the North East (166,000) and with the western region (71,000) on the bottom rung.
In the West, Texas-based Commercial Metals Co. (CMC) closed an electric arc furnace mill in California at the end of 2020. The firm is expanding its capacity at an EAF location in Arizona, but that capacity is not expected to come online until 2023.