Weekly steel output in the United States rose by another 1.4 percent in mid-May, continuing the positive momentum that has characterized the sector in 2021. On the other side of the world, despite some expectations that output in China may have peaked in 2020, that nation’s mills have continued to churn out steel in record amounts.
In the U.S. the Washington-based American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) says in the week ending May 15, 2021, domestic raw steel production was almost exactly 1.8 million tons, with mills operating at 79.2 percent of capacity.
That figure represents a 1.4 percent increase over the prior week’s output, when mills operated at 78.1 percent of capacity. In a demonstration of the impact of COVID-19 in the U.S. one year ago, the week ending May 15, 2021, output is 47.1 percent higher compared with the same week in 2020, when mills were running at just 54.6 percent of capacity.
On the other side of the world, China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has reported an April steel output figure in that nation of 97.85 million metric tons, according to a Reuters article.
Steel output has been rising the past two months, says the news agency, “even though Beijing has repeatedly vowed to ensure the country’s full-year output remains below the 1.065 billion metric tons produced last year.”
In the first four months of the year, China’s nearly 375 million metric tons of steel produced represents a 16 percent rise compared with the first four months of 2020, according to NBS data cited by Reuters.
In early May, China’s government coordinated with 15 copper producers to put a ceiling on copper concentrate imports. Metals information firm Beijing Antaike Information Co. Ltd. says the move was made as a means of price support to the red metals industry, and likely ties into Beijing’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint.
Basic oxygen furnace (BOF) steel production also is a major contributor to the nation’s status as a carbon emissions heavyweight. It has prompted the national government to back a switch to electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking and to approve the import of some ferrous scrap grades.
In late April of this year, the Chinese government eliminated or scaled back some export incentives for steelmakers. Unless May output figures signal otherwise, however, in a climate of high steel pricing and profitability, the largely state-owned steel producers in China have not shown a willingness to scale back production of their own accord.