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Steel demand to grow

(Posted on 24/04/19)

The World Steel Association (worldsteel) has released its April 2019 Short Range Outlook (SRO). worldsteel forecasts global steel demand will reach 1,735 Mt in 2019, an increase of 1.3% over 2018. In 2020, demand is projected to grow by 1.0% to reach 1,752 Mt.

The World Steel Association (worldsteel) is one of the largest and most dynamic industry associations in the world, with members in every major steel-producing country. worldsteel represents steel producers, national and regional steel industry associations, and steel research institutes. Members represent around 85% of global steel production.

Commenting on the outlook, Mr Al Remeithi, Chairman of the worldsteel Economics Committee said, “In 2019 and 2020, global steel demand is expected to continue to grow, but growth rates will moderate in tandem with a slowing global economy. Uncertainty over the trade environment and volatility in the financial markets have not yet subsided and could pose downside risks to this forecast.”

In 2018, global steel demand increased by 2.1% (after adjusting for China induction furnace closures – see note in October 2018 Short Range Outlook), growing slightly slower than in 2017. In 2019 and 2020 growth is still expected, but in a less favourable economic environment. China’s deceleration, a slowing global economy, and uncertainty surrounding trade policies and the political situation in many regions suggest a possible moderation in business confidence and investment.

Chinese steel demand continues to decelerate as the combined effect of economic rebalancing and trade tension is leading to slowing investment and sluggish manufacturing performance. Mild government stimulus cushioned the economic slowdown in 2018. In 2019, the government is likely to heighten the level of stimulus, which is expected to boost steel demand. 

In 2020, a minor contraction in Chinese steel demand is forecasted as the stimulus effects are expected to subside.

Steel demand in the developed economies grew by 1.8% in 2018 following a resilient 3.1% growth in 2017. We expect demand to further decelerate to 0.3% in 2019 and 0.7% in 2020, reflecting a deteriorating trade environment.

In 2017-18, steel demand in the US benefitted from the strong growth of the economy driven by government-led fiscal stimulus, leading to high confidence and a robust job market. In 2019, the US growth pattern is expected to slow with the waning effect of fiscal stimulus and a monetary policy normalisation. Therefore, both construction and manufacturing growth is expected to moderate. Investment in oil and gas exploration is expected to decelerate as well, while a boost in infrastructure spending is not expected.

The EU economies also face the deteriorating trade environment and uncertainty over Brexit. We expect slower growth in demand for steel in the major EU economies (especially in those more export dependent) in 2019. Steel demand growth is expected to improve in 2020, dependent on a reduction in trade tensions.

Japan recorded growth in steel demand in 2018, supported by a favourable investment environment and continued construction activities as well as a boost in consumer spending prior to the consumption tax

increase. In 2019 and 2020, steel demand is likely to contract slightly due to a moderation of construction activities and decelerating exports despite the support provided by public projects.

Steel demand in Korea has been contracting since 2017 due to reduced demand from two major steel using sectors, shipbuilding and automotive. Steel demand is expected to continue declining in 2019 due to toughened real estate market measures and a deteriorating export environment. A mild recovery is expected in 2020.

Steel demand in the emerging economies excluding China is expected to grow by 2.9% and 4.6% in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

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