February steel production figures from Brussels-based WorldSteel show producers in China continued to churn out finished and semifinished steel during its COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown phase.
Despite government-mandated lockdowns throughout most of China during much of February, mills in that nation produce 74.8 million metric tons of steel that month, for a volume that was 5 percent higher than output in February 2019.
Steel industry analysts have expressed concerns that a significant decrease in steel demand in China in February and the first half of March will create a global steel glut that could suppress prices.
Investors in China, however, have shown some confidence that the situation there has turned around and that government stimulus programs will absorb much of that steel in the second quarter of 2020.
The February WorldSteel figures portray an industry that was beginning to slow down in some regions as the COVID-19 virus began to make its appearance in other parts of Asia and in Europe and North America.
The 28 nations of the European Union (with the United Kingdom still included) produced 9 percent less steel in February 2020 compared with one year earlier. Output also slumped in Taiwan by 5.5 percent compared with February 2019.
Other nations have shown a year-on-year increase in steel production in the first two months of 2020, before governments in Europe and North America began emulating COVID-19 social distancing and lockdown measures.
That includes the United States, with 2.4 percent growth over the first two months of 2019, plus Turkey with an impressive 12.7 percent output boost.
Staying relatively stable in the first two months of 2020 was India, with a 0.8 percent decline in steel output, while South Korea showed a 3.4 percent decline. Mills in Australia produced 900,000 metric tons during the time frame, up by 6.1 percent compared with the first two months of 2019.
South American and Mexican steelmakers have struggled in early 2020, with Mexican output slumping by 16 percent and South American production down 6 percent.