Global demand recovery keeps outpacing expectations: worldsteel

Global steel demand performed in 2020 better than previously expected, and the outlook for 2021 has also been revised upwards by worldsteel, Kallanish learns from the association.

In its previous outlook issued last October, worldsteel had expected finished steel demand to fall 2.4% on-year in 2020. The association confirmed on Thursday, however, that the fall was only 0.2% y-o-y, to 1.7 billion tonnes.

“Despite the disastrous impact of the pandemic on lives and livelihoods, the global steel industry was fortunate enough to end 2020 with only a minor contraction in steel demand,” says worldsteel economic committee chairman Saeed Al Remeithi. “This was due to a surprisingly robust recovery in China, with growth of 9.1%. In the rest of the world steel demand contracted by 10%.”

This year demand is expected to recover by 5.8% y-o-y and in 2022 by 2.7% y-o-y. Last October worldsteel forecasted a recovery in 2021 of only 4.1%.

While the figures appear positive, worldsteel director general Edwin Basson is quick to note that mature economies are not expected to fully return to 2019 steel consumption levels by end-2022.

India is expected to see the fastest recovery in 2021, with demand rebounding by almost 20% y-o-y, after a fall of 13.7% y-o-y in 2020. Turkey was the sole major steel user to see a recovery in demand in 2020 – by 13% y-o-y – due to the strong contraction registered in 2019. In 2021 Turkish demand is set to continue growing rapidly, by 18.7% y-o-y.

The trend for mature economies, though, is clearly more challenging. The US is set to see demand rebounding by 8.1% y-o-y in 2021, after a drop of 18% y-o-y in 2020. Germany’s steel demand will recover by 9.3% after a drop of 11.6%.

Currently, most global markets are suffering from supply shortages, due to a number of factors, not least the delayed impact of lockdown measures and reduction in steel output during 2020. Basson believes these shortages should ease gradually in the second part of this year, as the market is adjusting, albeit slowly.

Emanuele Norsa Italy