Articles in Category: Ferrous Metals
Steel production


Global steel production for the first nine months of 2020 fell by 3.2% year over year to 1.35 billion tonnes, the World Steel Association (worldsteel) stated on October 23.

Production over the same time in 2019 was slightly over 1.39 billion tonnes, the Brussels-based organization stated.

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Global steel production falls, but China’s rises

China, the world’s largest steelmaking nation by volume, offset the total decrease with a 4.5% rise in its crude production to almost 782 million tonnes from slightly over 748 million tonnes, worldsteel figures indicated.

September alone saw China pour over 92.5 million tonnes of crude steel. That figure is up 10.9% from the 83.4 million tonnes China poured in September 2019.

Elsewhere in Asia

Vietnam saw the largest increase over nine months in Asia at 14.8% year over year. Total production reached 17.7 million tonnes from the 15.4 million tonnes produced in the first nine months of 2019.

Asia’s total crude production was almost unchanged at just over 1 billion tonnes from 999 million tonnes.

Japan had the largest drop in the region at 19.1% to 70.2 million tonnes from 84 million tonnes.

“The more interesting trend the data shows is the evolution of steel making in SE Asia,” MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns explained. “Japan is suffering but capacity in markets like Vietnam is rising rapidly, in part to meet domestic and regional demand but additionally as Chinese manufacturers offshore to circumvent tariff barriers they are facing in North America and Europe.

“Although much of the production from these new producers is currently flowing into local Asian markets, the quality is sufficiently high to give them access in time into Europe, Japan and elsewhere. The Asian steel story is not confined to China.”

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Continuing the theme of the last few months, the U.S. steel sector continued to make gains in capacity utilization last week.

CRU is a popular steel contracting index. But you shouldn’t use it very often. See why!

Steel capacity utilization rises to 69.7%

Per the American Iron and Steel Institute, U.S. steel mills recorded a capacity utilization rate of 69.7% during the week ending Oct. 24.

Raw steel production during the week totaled 1.54 million net tons. Meanwhile, production during the week ending Oct. 24, 2019, totaled 1.81 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 78.0%.

On a year-over-year basis, last week’s output marked a 14.6% decline.

Meanwhile, production for the week ending Oct. 24, 2020, ticked up 0.5% from the previous week.  Production during the week ending Oct. 17, 2020, totaled 1.54 million net tons at a capacity utilization rate of 69.4%.

YTD output down 19.3%

In the year to date through Oct. 24, U.S. mills produced 64 million net tons of steel, down 19.3% year over year.

Output during the same period in 2019 totaled 79.4 million net tons at a capacity utilization rate of 80.1%.

Regional output

Broken down by region, output during the week ending Oct. 24, 2020, totaled:

  • Northeast: 135,000 net tons
  • Great Lakes: 563,000 net tons
  • Midwest: 171,000 net tons
  • Southern: 600,000 net tons
  • Western: 73,000 net tons

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U.S. steel imports dipped 8.3% from August to September, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Monday.

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U.S. steel imports in September

In September 2020, the U.S. imported 1.1 million metric tons on steel products, down from 1.2 million metric tons the previous month.

Meanwhile, for the year to date (through August), the U.S. imported 14.9 million metric tons of steel products, down 20.7% year over year.

During the same period last year, the U.S. imported 18.8 million metric tons.

During the year-to-date period, the largest commodity decrease came for oil country goods, according the Census Bureau.

“Increases occurred primarily in tin free steel, used rails, and light shaped bars,” the Bureau reported. “The largest country decreases occurred with Russia. Increases occurred primarily with Turkey, Brazil, and Mexico.”

Hot-dipped galvanized sheet, strip imports gain

The largest import category, hot-dipped galvanized sheet and strip, checked in at 173,010 metric tons in September.

The September figure marked a rise from the 157,503 metric tons imported in August. Furthermore, the U.S. imported 177,943 metric tons in the category in September 2019.

Meanwhile, in the No. 2 category, hot-rolled sheet imports reached 137,497 metric tons in September, up from 97,334 metric tons in August. However, the September 2020 total marked a decline from September 2019’s 151,330 metric tons.

U.S. representatives: no to Section 232 electrical steel tariffs

Finally, U.S. imports of electrical sheet and strip totaled 1,764 metric tons in September — not exactly the largest share of the import total.

Furthermore, the total marked a decline from the 2,758 metric tons imported in August.

Nonetheless, several Congressmen recently sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross asking the Trump administration not to impose Section 232 tariffs on imports of electrical steel.

Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) sent the letter, which Reps. Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Ben Cline (VA-06), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), and Dan Bishop (NC-09) cosigned.

“The manufacturing industry employs millions of Americans, and there is no reason to impose unnecessary tariffs that would put over 15,000 transformer industry jobs at risk,” Riggleman said in a release. “Access to affordable electricity is a pillar of American life and commerce. We must keep American workers at the forefront of progress as the U.S. continues to dominate the global energy sphere.”

Meanwhile, back in May, the Department of Commerce launched a Section 232 investigation into laminations and wound cores for incorporation into transformers, electrical transformers, and transformer regulators. 

Under Section 232, the secretary of commerce has 270 days from the launch of an investigation to provide a report with findings and recommendations to the president, which sets up for a late January deadline.

Meanwhile, as for domestic options for electrical steel buyers, AK Steel is the only U.S. producer of grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES). ATI exited the U.S. GOES production market in 2016.

Not all contracting indexes are created equal. In a steel price spike scenario, finished product indexes like CRU or AMM HRC can be detrimental to your strategy. Learn when you should use what kind of contracting mechanisms.

West European steelmakers are likely to see improvements in production and demand for their rolled products in 2021, following the adverse economic effects due to COVID-19 in 2020, industry watchers predicted.

Volatility is the name of the game. Do you have a steel buying strategy that can handle the ups and downs?

Better 2021 for Western European steelmakers

“Next year should be better if you take the view that this year was diabolical,” one analyst said about 2020. Steelmakers in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Benelux saw aggressive production cutbacks in crude steel and rolled products as governments undertook containment measures and economies slowed.

“COVID-19 practically destroyed demand,” the analyst added.

Localized lockdowns — rather than the national ones that occurred earlier in the year around Europe, when it was the epicenter of the virus — will also help to boost activity, the analyst said.

“If people are out of their homes, then there is economic activity,” he noted.

The World Steel Association (worldsteel) also predicted in its Oct. 15 short-range outlook that crude steel production within the European Union would improve by almost 11% to 149 million tonnes in 2021. Meanwhile, the Brussels-based organization predicted 134 million tonnes of production for 2020.

The latter forecast reflected a 15.2% decrease from the over 158 million tonnes of crude steel poured in 2019, worldsteel noted.

“On the positive side, health systems are in a much better shape to tackle the pandemic now due to the lessons learnt from the first wave,” worldsteel noted.

Furthermore, there is a careful balance between “containing the virus and maintaining the viability of economies,” worldsteel added.

COVID uncertainty

However, worldsteel offered a caveat in its outlook.

“Added to this in the northern hemisphere there is uncertainty over how COVID-19 will evolve during the upcoming flu season which may have a serious impact on the outlook for 2021. The risk is tilted toward the downside. A W-shaped recovery cannot be ruled out and a full recovery in 2021 is unlikely,” the organization warned.

While worldsteel’s outlook did not break down the figures by country, it indicated in its September figures that West European steelmakers’ crude production for the first eight months of 2020 fell by 19.7% year over year to 59.1 million tonnes. Meanwhile, production totaled 73.5 million tonnes from Jan. 1-Aug. 31 in 2019.

Those same West European producers are now operating at below 60% of their crude production capacity, which is approximately 16 million metric tonnes per month, a second analyst said.

Western European steelmakers’ profits decline

Two major steelmakers with assets in Western Europe also reported notable drops in their production and in their financial results.

ThyssenKrupp’s Steel Europe subsidiary recorded a €706 million ($835 million) EBITDA loss for the first nine months of its 2020 fiscal year ending June 30. Meanwhile, it reported a €77 million gain ($91.1 million) over the same time in 2019.

Net sales were down 20% year over year to approximately €5.5 billion ($6.5 billion) from €6.3 billion ($7.5 billion), the report indicated.

Steel shipments by the German group saw a 12.8% decline in its steel shipments to 6.83 million tonnes from 7.82 million tonnes for the same time, the German group noted.

ArcelorMittal produces longs and flats at several locations in Western Europe. The steelmaker announced closures in March as part of its COVID containment measures in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium. Those closures continued in the second quarter of 2020, the Luxembourg-headquartered group said in its H1 report.

Total crude steel production in that group’s Europe segment for the first six months of 2020 fell to 16.1 million metric tonnes, down 30.5% year over year from 23.4 million metric tonnes.

European steel prices slide

Average steel selling prices in Europe were also down 11.2% to $636 per metric tonne from $716, ArcelorMittal said.

Prices for hot and cold rolled coil have already started rising since mid-2020, however, sources said.

“Restocking is happening, especially in the auto sector. This is pushing up prices, though it remains to be seen what happens,” the second analyst said.

Producers’ lower production levels will also strike a balance between supply and demand, the first analyst said.

Prices for hot rolled coil in West Europe now average about €491 ($581) per metric tonne EXW, up from lows of €433 ($512) in March.

The analysts questioned for how long any price increases would be sustainable. Many stockists were replenishing their lower volumes in the face of some renewed activity.

Stop obsessing about the actual forecasted steel price. It’s more important to spot the trend. See why.

Airbus plane

dade72/Adobe Stock

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including the AirbusBoeing subsidy saga, industrial production, Liberty Steel’s bid for German firm Thyssenkrupp’s steel division and much more.

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

Week of Oct. 19-23 (Airbus-Boeing saga, industrial production and more)

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scrap steel

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This morning in metals news: global steel groups renewed calls for the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity to continue its work targeting steel overcapacity; Freeport-McMoRan released its Q3 financial results; and, finally, U.S. natural gas exports to Mexico have increased.

Stop obsessing about the actual forecasted steel price. It’s more important to spot the trend. See why.

Steel groups call for renewed emphasis on steel overcapacity

Groups around the world have asked governments to “intensify” their work with the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity.

“Steel industries throughout the world expressed tremendous concern about the recent increase in steel overcapacity at a time when steel demand is severely depressed by the COVID-19 pandemic, reversing a trend of gradual decreases in overcapacity in the three years after the GFSEC was established (2016 – 2019),” the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) said in a release.

Among the action items suggested by the groups included development of “stronger disciplines” related to industrial subsidies. In addition, the groups called for upholding “effective trade remedies” in order to ensure a level playing field.

Freeport-McMoRan releases Q3 financials

Miner Freeport-McMoRan released its Q3 financials today, reporting net income of $329 million, up from a loss of $207 million in Q3 2019.

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Zerophoto/Adobe Stock

After a period of negative news following the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s finally some cheer for India’s steel industry, particularly related to Indian domestic steel demand.

Domestic steel demand has bounced back to pre-COVID levels. Automotive and white goods sector demand have driven the steel demand recovery.

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Indian domestic steel demand recovers

As per a report by financial firm Motilal Oswal, higher steel prices and lower coking coal prices ensured Indian primary steel producers’ margins remained strong. In addition, the report noted there were signs of domestic steel demand recovering gradually in the country.

The Motilal Oswal report also pointed out that India’s finished steel consumption, too, is recovering gradually. India’s finished steel consumption registered a drop of as much as 85% year over year in April 2020.

Chinese demand boosts Indian steel

What’s more, a renewed demand in the largest steel consuming market in China also boosted the bullish steel market in India.

Steel trade data by China shows demand remains strong there. China’s net steel exports declined to 10-year lows in September 2020. In addition, China saw a spurt in passenger car sales in September.

Because of these developments in China, its fallout was also seen in the Indian markets. Steel prices have also firmed up and have shown consistent increases over the last four months since July.

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The U.S. steel sector continued to show incremental gains in capacity utilization last week.

Capacity utilization by U.S. mills rose to 69.4% for the week ending Oct. 17, 2020, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

See why technical analysis is a superior forecasting methodology over fundamental analysis and why it matters for your steel buy.

U.S. steel sector continues capacity gains

For the week ending Oct. 17, the U.S. steel sector’s capacity utilization rate rose to 69.4%, producing 1.54 million tons in the process.

The weekly output marked a 15.0% year-over-year decline. Output during the week ending Oct. 17, 2019, totaled 1.81 million tons at a capacity utilization rate of 78.0%.

Meanwhile, production for the week ending Oct. 17, 2020, rose 2.2% from the previous week. For the week ending Oct. 10, 2020, production reached 1.50 million net tons at a capacity utilization rate of 67.9%.

YTD output down 19.4%

Adjusted year-to-date production through Oct. 17 reached 62.48 million net tons. Capacity utilization rate during the period reached 66.3%.

The year-to-date output is down 19.4% from the 77.55 million net tons during the same period last year. The capacity utilization rate during that period reached 80.1%.

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Ford Motor Co.

Björn Wylezich/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: Ford’s China sales posted their largest year-over-year increase in Q3 since 2016; overall automotive sales in China gained 12.8% year over year; and Liberty Steel Group announced it has made an offer to acquire German firm Thyssenkrupp’s steel business.

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Ford’s China sales rise 25.4%

Ford’s China sales rose 25.4% on a year-over-year basis in the third quarter, the automaker reported.

The year-over-year gain in China marked Ford’s strongest sales gain in the market since 2016.

“Ford is strengthening its sales momentum in China by building on growing consumer preference for our iconic brand and favorable product mix of luxury and near-premium utility vehicles,” said Anning Chen, president and CEO of Ford China. “Our localization strategy to produce in China world-class Ford and Lincoln vehicles, including the newly launched Ford Explorer, Lincoln Corsair and Lincoln Aviator, has further enhanced our competitiveness in delivering the best products and services that Chinese consumers are looking for.”

Auto sales in China up again

Meanwhile, overall automotive sales were up in China for a fifth straight month.

Auto sales in the country rose 12.8% year over year in September, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

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leszekglasner/Adobe Stock

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including: the nickel market; aluminum prices on the SHFE and LME; China’s metals rebound; and much more.

Sign up today for Gunpowder, MetalMiner’s free, biweekly e-newsletter featuring news, analysis and more.

Week in Review, Oct. 12-16 (nickel market, China’s metals rebound and more)

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.