Global demand for steel may set a record by the end of 2011, after declining by 6.6% just last year, according to a new economic forecast by steel producers.
Steel demand had been on track to increase by 8.4% in 2010, but the World Steel Association has now revised that projection to 13.1% for 2010 and 5.3% in 2011, bringing total demand to a record 1,340 million metric tons (mmt) worldwide.
‘Steady and Stable Recovery’
“This improved outlook is due to a better-than-expected forecast for the developed economies—particularly the EU, NAFTA, and the CIS—as well as the continued strong rebound in most emerging economies,” said Daniel Novegil, chairman of the association’s Economics Committee, which authored the Short Range Outlook.
“This suggests a steady and stable steel recovery, and our current forecast does not foresee a double dip recession as feared by some."
The greatest increase for 2010 (31.3%) is expected to be in the NAFTA countries; Central and South America should see an increase of 28.2%; the C.I.S. countries, 26.5%.
China Increase Slows
Steel demand in China, which soared by 28.4% in 2009, should moderate to an increase of 6.7% in 2010. Excluding China, world demand for steel plummeted by 24.4% in 2009; in 2010, excluding China, world demand is expected to average 19%; in 2011, excluding China, 6.8%.
Still, while the forecast for China is for relatively low growth, its apparent steel use in 2011 will be 42% above that of 2007 and will account for about 45% of world apparent steel use.
In the NAFTA region, the United States had a 36.2% reduction in apparent steel use in 2009. Aided by stock-building activities and a recovery in manufacturing, apparent steel use in the U.S. is expected to grow by 32.9% in 2010 and then 9.4% to 86.1 mmt in 2011—nearly 80% of the 2007 level.
For NAFTA as a whole, apparent steel use will grow by 31.3% and 8.7% in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
India's steel demand grew 7.5% during the global financial crisis and is expected to grow by 8.2% and 13.6% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. With 68 mmt of apparent steel use in 2011—32% higher than its 2007 level—India will become the third-largest steel consumer after China and the U.S.
Central and South America, which recorded a 23.6% decline in 2009, should see growth of 28.2% in 2010 aided by a strong rebound of 34.6% in Brazil. In 2011, the region's apparent steel use will grow by 9.1% to reach 47.6 mmt, a historical high for the region.
The EU economies saw a 35.7% reduction in their apparent steel use in 2009, with Spain, Italy, and the UK especially hard hit by the collapse of their construction sectors. However, the EU’s recovery now appears stronger than expected and the region will see an increase of 18.9% in 2010 in its apparent steel use.
Japan, which experienced a fall of 32.3% in apparent steel use in 2009, will see its steel use increase by 19.1% in 2010—much higher than expected and 14% higher than the 2007 level.
Apparent steel use reflects the deliveries of steel to the marketplace from the domestic steel producers as well as from importers. This differs from real steel use, which takes into account steel delivered to or drawn from inventories.
Despite the optimistic outlook, Novegil remains cautious.
“Steel demand in the developed economies in 2011 will still be well below the pre-crisis peak level,” he said. “The recovery so far has been mainly driven by the inventory cycle and government stimulus packages whose effects are now fading out.”
Whether the recovery momentum will continue remains to be seen, Novegil said. “Recent economic indicators are giving us mixed signals, and developments in the remaining part of this year and early next year must be watched carefully."