Japan: Crude steel output rises 14.3% on year in October

Japan’s crude steel production in October reached 8.22 million mt, up 1% from September and 14.3% year on year, data from the Japan Iron & Steel Federation data Nov. 22.

The firm start to the fourth quarter was due to strong demand from the country’s manufacturing sector.

The ease in pandemic restrictions and a ramped-up vaccination program that promoted domestic economic activities led to the au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index for October to reflect an expansion to 53.2 from 51.5 in September.

Of the overall output, 6.01 million mt came via convention blast furnaces, down 0.2% from September but up 13.4% against October 2020, while electric arc furnaces manufactured 2.21 million mt of crude steel in October, a 4.3% month-on-month gain and a 16.6% jump year on year.

With the October data summed up, crude steel production in the first 10 months of 2021 totaled 80.36 million mt, 17.5% higher on the year. But compared with the same period pre-COVID-19, 2021’s January to October output has recovered to just 4.1% shy of 2019’s production.

Downstream, in Japan’s finished steel production, 5.61 million mt of hot-rolled products were made in October, up 1.4% and 10.5% higher from September 2021 and October 2020, respectively.

Wide strips formed the bulk of the HR production at 3.26 million mt, a slight 0.5% gain from September and 10.1% higher annually.

Year to date, as of October, HR products totaled 54.76 million mt with wide strips making up 33.12 million mt. The former was up 11.7% while the latter grew 17.0% on a year-on-year basis.

Demand for automotive steel is expected to fall following local vehicle production and sales targets cuts for the financial year ending March 31, 2022.

For instance, Toyota Motor Corp. announced Nov. 4 that it lowered its annual production forecast to 9 million vehicles from 9.3 million vehicles it previously projected in May, citing a global shortage of semiconductor chips and the coronavirus.

Similarly, on Nov. 5, Honda Motor Co. cut its annual vehicles sales target by 650,000 to 4.2 million units for the financial year ending March 31, 2022.

— Clement Choo, Samuel Chin