Production of crude steel by the 65 countries monitored by the World Steel Association in March 2014 rose by 2.7% to 141 million tonnes. The total of the 3 months to date was 406 million tonnes, some 2.5% higher than the January to March period in 2013. However, excluding China, the monthly total was 3.2% higher than in March 2013, and the quarter total was 2.5% above the same quarter in 2013.
Crude steel production in the European Union 28 increased by 6.8% in March to 15.4 million tonnes compared to March 2013, and was 6.7% up in the quarter at 43.8 million tonnes. German steel production was up by 6.1% in the month, and by 4.3% in the three months at 11.3 million tonnes. Italian production, however, increased by 8% in March, and by 9.4% in the quarter to 6.6 million tonnes. French steel production rose by 4.1% in March, bringing the year to date total up 2.9% to 4.1 million tonnes. Spanish steel production also rose by 4.1% in March, but was 8.3% higher in the three months to 3.6 million tonnes. United Kingdom steel production increased by 9.3% in March, and by 19.2% in the year to date to 3.2 million tonnes. A few countries in the European Union showed a drop in March production with Belgium down by 11.7% and Slovakia down by 10.7%.
Outside the European Union, Turkish production fell by 4.3% in March, and by 0.5% in the three months to 8.4 million tonnes, keeping it just ahead of Brazil. First quarter production in Norway increased by 7.6% to 161 thousand tonnes compared to Q1 2013, while Bosnian production rose by 11.5% to 208 thousand tonnes.
According to ACEA, the European vehicle manufacturers association, car registrations in the 29 European countries monitored rose by 10.4% in March, and by 8.1% in the first three months of 2014 compared to 2013. In Germany registrations increased by 5.4% in March, bringing the three month total up 5.6% to 712 thousand units. UK car registrations, on the other hand, actually rose by 17.7% in March, with the quarter total up by 13.7% to 688 thousand units. In France registrations rose by 8.5% in the month, with the year to date total up just 2.9% to 447 thousand units. Italian registrations were 5% up in the month, bringing the year to date total up 5.8% to 377 thousand units. In Spain registrations increased by 10% in March, bringing the quarter total to 202 thousand units, an increase of 11.8%.
In the former USSR, Russia only showed an increase in steel production of 1.3% in the month and 0.4% in the quarter to 17.2 million tonnes. In the Ukraine production actually fell by 7.7% in March, and by 10.1% in the quarter to 7.5 million tonnes. Production in Kazakhstan rose by 15.4% in the quarter to 826 thousand tonnes while in Belarus production was down 24% to 503 thousand tonnes.
Crude steel production in the USA only rose by 0.9% in March to 7.4 million tonnes, leaving the first quarter total flat at 21.5 million tonnes. Mexican production, however, rose by 10.5% in the month, with the three months total 9.6% higher at 5 million tonnes. Canadian steel production, on the other hand, was 7.2% down in March, and 6.9% lower in the year to date at 3.1 million tonnes.
South American production varied considerably with Brazil showing a 1.5% increase in March with the year to date total up just 0.4% to 8.2 million tonnes. In Argentina production increased by 0.9% in the month bringing the three months total to 1.2 million tonnes, a rise of 12.7% on the first quarter of 2013. Venezuelan steel production, however, fell by 35% in March, resulting in a 32% drop in the three months to 416 thousand tonnes. In Peru, on the other hand, the three months production was up by 11.4% to 281 thousand tonnes. Colombia's quarter total was 284 thousand tonnes, up 1.8%, but Chile's total was 18.9% lower at 283 thousand tonnes.
In Africa, the South African monthly total was 21% higher, and the total for the quarter rose by 12.4% to 1.8 million tonnes. The Egyptian March total was 2.9% up, but the three months total fell by 10.2% to 1.5 million tonnes. The Libyan three month total, on the other hand, jumped by 36% to 245 thousand tonnes. In the Middle East Iranian steel production rose by 14.8% in March, bringing the first quarter total up 7.7% to 3.8 million tonnes, while Saudi Arabian steel production decreased slightly in March, although the three months total was up by 4.2% to 1.4 million tonnes.
Of the five major Asian countries for which monthly crude steel production data are available four showed increased production in both March and the year to date. Chinese steel production increased by 2.2% in March to 70 million tonnes, while the three months total rose by 2.4% to 203 million tonnes, 50% of the world total in 2014. Japan's production rose by 2.9% in March, with the first quarter production up 3.5% to 27.6 million tonnes. Indian steel production in March was 3.9% higher, with the three months total increasing by 1.6% to 20.8 million tonnes. Production in South Korea, on the other hand, increased by 8% in March, bringing the year to date total up by 5.2% to 17.4 million tonnes. Taiwanese production, however, was 5.2% lower in the month, although the first quarter total was 2.3% up at 5.5 million tonnes.
China's steel exports in March rose to their highest level since September 2008 at 6.7 million tonnes. Compared to March 2013 this was a 28% increase. In terms of products hot rolled bars showed a 59% increase, hot rolled wide coil a 60% increase, CR a 44% increase and rods and bars in coil a 29% increase. The largest product group exported in March was hot rolled bars and flats at 1.2 million tonnes which was virtually all recorded as alloy steel. The next largest export at 933 thousand tonnes was rods and bars in coil, which again was virtually all alloy steel. Hot rolled wide strip exports were 841 thousand tonnes of which 85% was alloy. Exports of zinc and other coated sheet and strip totalled over 1.1 million tonnes of which the two major products were hot dipped galvanised sheet and organic coated sheet, together accounting for 87% of this group.
Despite the significant increase in March exports, Asian countries still accounted for about 60% of the total with South Korea alone accounting for nearly 16% of total exports at over one million tonnes. The second largest market for Chinese exports in March was Vietnam, taking 521 thousand tonnes, followed by the Philippines at 369 thousand tonnes. The European Union in total took 453 thousand tonnes in March, just 6.7% of Chinese exports.
Chinese imports of steel were 1.3 million tonnes in March which was higher than in February but lower than the January total. Hence the balance of trade widened significantly in March. Coated sheet and strip accounted for 25% of Chinese imports in March with CR accounting for a further 21%. Hot rolled wide strip was 15% of total imports in March.
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