September Steel Output Shows Global Industry Still Adjusting

September Steel Output Shows Global Industry Still Adjusting

Global raw steel output declined slightly from August to September, and the year-to-date total remains slightly behind the 2015, and yet the September year-over-year output rose slightly more than 2.0% as the world’s major steelmakers continue to try adjusting to weak demand and excess supplies. The results are drawn from date released by the World Steel Assn., which tracks monthly raw-steel output and capacity utilization rates for 66 countries.

Worldwide, raw steel production totaled 132.9 million metric tons during September, a decline of 0.91% from August but an increase of 2.02% versus the September 2015 production total.

For the year to date, the world’s steelmakers have produced 1.197 billion metric tons of raw steel, nearly even (-0.49%) of the total produced during the comparable (January-September) period of 2015.

Raw-steel capacity utilization for the 66 countries was 70% in September, just 1.5% higher than during August. In September 2015, the capacity utilization rate was 69.5%.

Raw (or crude) steel is the output of basic oxygen furnaces and electric arc furnaces that is cast into semi-finished products, such as slabs, blooms, or billets.  The World Steel Association reports tonnage and capacity utilization data for carbon and carbon alloy steel in 66 countries; data for production of stainless and specialty alloy steels are not included.

Global steel output has been falling at a steady pace for much of the past two years. Earlier this month, World Steel Assn. issued a semi-annual Short Range Outlook report for global steel demand, projecting a total 2016 increase of 0.2% to 1.501 billion metric tons, after a 3.0% decline in 2015. For 2017, the Outlook is for a 0.5% increase, to 1.51 billion metric tons.

China produces nearly half of all the world’s steel, and economic planners in that country have implemented regulations to consolidate management of the largest producers and eliminate excess capacity.

Much of the declining output is accounted for by Chinese producers trimming excess and outdated production capacity –in line with Chinese regulators’ long-range directives. However, the September report shows that the centralized efforts may not be proceeding as smoothly as the regulators or the wider world’s steelmakers may wish.

During September, China’s steelmakers produced 68.2 million metric tons of raw steel, less than 1% below the August total but 3.9% higher than the September 2015 output level. Through nine months of the current year, the Chinese industry has produced 603.9 million metric tons, which is 0.47% more than during the comparable period of 2015.

In Japan, September raw steel output fell 5.24% from August and 1.5% from September 2015, to 8.4 million metric tons. Japan’s January-September output of 78.4 million metric tons represents a 0.54% decline compared to the nine-month output total for 2015.

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American Machinist is an IndustryWeek companion site within Penton's Manufacturing & Supply Chain Group.

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