China Steel Output Rises, Adding to Concern Over Global Glut

14 September 2015

China’s steel output climbed in August from a month earlier, shrugging off government-ordered shutdowns and increasing concerns that excess production in the world’s biggest supplier is swelling a global glut.

Output of crude steel rose 1.7 percent to 66.94 million metric tons, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics on Sunday. While production was up from July, it fell 3.5 percent from a year earlier and dropped 2 percent to 543.02 million tons in the first eight months, the bureau said. The country supplies more than half of the world’s steel.

China’s economic growth remains stuck below the government’s target of about 7 percent this year, curbing demand. Bloomberg’s monthly gross domestic product tracker was at 6.64 percent last month, barely changed from July. Industrial output missed economists’ forecasts Sunday, while investment in the first eight months increased at the slowest pace since 2000.

“We still think there may be some slight improvement in domestic demand into the end of the year but that requires infrastructure activity to lift,” Lachlan Shaw, analyst at UBS Group AG, said by phone. “There is still a lot of steel being made because it is low cost, and there is the possibility for exports to grow even further.”

Parade Closures

The expansion in August means output rose elsewhere in China to offset closures in Hebei province, a key steelmaking region, where furnaces were ordered shut to improve air quality in Beijing before a parade to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II. Mills are grappling with weakening domestic demand for the metal used in everything from cars to construction as the economy grows at the slowest pace in a generation.

The global steel industry is struggling with record exports from China as excess supply spills onto world markets. Shipments in August were close to January’s record and 25 percent more than a year earlier, customs data show, spurring efforts by mills worldwide to stem the surge.

Exports in the first eight months climbed 26.5 percent, the data show. ArcelorMittal South Africa Ltd., a unit of the world’s biggest steelmaker, has asked the government to extend tariffs on imports.