hot steel ingots
Steel output in China has roared back to life, but that is not the case in most other nations.
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July steel figures show global recovery imbalance

Mills in China outpaced last year’s production by 9 percent, while its neighbors experience up to double-digit declines.

August 25, 2020

National steel output figures collected by the Brussels-based World Steel Association (Worldsteel) show a Chinese steel sector that is churning out more steel than ever. Meanwhile other nations—including China’s nearest neighbors—have output figures reflecting the continued struggles of their economies to return to a pre-COVID-19 footing.

The Worldsteel figures, often provided by national trade associations, show China produced 93.4 million metric tons of crude steel in July, an increase of 9.1 percent compared with July 2019. Neighboring Japan, however, produced 6 million metric tons of crude steel, down 27.9 percent compared with July 2019. In nearby South Korea, steel production for July 2020 of 5.5 million metric tons was down by 8.3 percent compared with July 2019.

Year to date, China has produced 2.8 percent more steel compared with the first seven months of 2019, while Japanese mills have produced 18.8 percent less steel.

Globally, crude steel production for the 64 countries reporting to Worldsteel was 152.7 million metric tons in July 2020, a 2.5 percent decrease compared with July 2019.

In North America, output in the United States remains distant from pre-COVID-19 levels, with the 5.24 million tons of steel produced in July 2020 representing a 29.4 percent reduction from the July 2019 figure. Year to date, output in the U.S. is down 19.5 percent, and in Mexico, it is down 17 percent.

In the European Union, steel output was down 24.4 percent in July 2020 compared with July 2019, while year to date the region has produced 19.2 percent less steel. Not a single one of the 18 EU nations reporting a national figure showed an increase in July 2020 output compared with July 2019.

The Indian subcontinent also has shown ill-effects from COVID-19, with Indian mills producing 24.3 percent less steel in the first seven months of 2020 compared with the year before, and Pakistani output is down by 16.6 percent year-to-date.

In perhaps good news for ferrous scrap exporters, output in Turkey in July showed a 7.4 percent increase compared with the July 2019 figure, and year to date the nation’s output has declined by just 2.4 percent. Vietnam is another scrap importing nation exhibiting healthy steel production in 2020, with the nation’s mills showing an 8.4 percent increase in output year to date.