Production of crude steel for the 67 countries reporting to the World Steel Association in March was estimated to be 155 million tonnes. This was 4.9% above the tonnage in March 2018, and the year to date was 4.5% above same period of 2018 at 444 million tonnes. China is still growing at a faster rate than the rest of the world and excluding China, the monthly total was flat compared to March 2018 and the year to date total was 0.8% down on 2018.
In the European Union crude steel production for the 28 countries decreased by 1.2% in March, compared to March 2018, to 15 million tonnes. This brought the year to date total down 2% at 42 million tonnes. There were mixed fortunes for the major producers. Germany and Italy both saw modest declines; Poland declined by 5.2% and Belgium slumped by 25%. Offsetting this was Spain, the UK and France, increasing by 5.9%, 2.3% and 3.4% respectively.
Turkish steel output continued to slump, down by 12% to 3 million tonnes in March and 14.5% to 8.2 million tonnes in the year to date. Serbia's production in the year to date grew by 7.1% to 500 thousand tonnes. Bosnian steel output was up by 6.3% in the year to date at 219 thousand tonnes, while in Norway steel production rose by 7.6% to 161 thousand tonnes.
So far this year Turkish production has been considerably behind that of last year. As well as the 12% reduction in output, there has also been a 30% fall in imports and an 18% increase in exports. Likely as a result of a lack of internal demand, exports of semis to North Africa have seen a significant increase along with HRC and HDG to Italy. The reduction in imports has been felt in a decrease in Semis from Russia and Ukraine; a fall in HRC imports from France, Germany and Ukraine; and a decline in imports of HDG from Italy, Spain and Belgium.
According to the ACEA, In March 2019, the European passenger car market contracted by 3.9%, falling from 1,792,880 units the year before to 1,722,442 last month. Demand decreased in all major EU markets. Italy posted the highest percentage drop (-9.6%), followed by Spain (-4.3%), the United Kingdom (-3.4%), France (-2.3%) and Germany (-0.5%).
Three months into the year, demand for new cars in the European Union declined by 3.3%, totalling 4,032,881 units. In Germany, registrations remained almost flat (+0.2%), while the other key markets performed worse than in the first quarter of 2018 - most notably Spain (-6.9%) and Italy (-6.5%).
Overall, the CIS region saw production down 1.7% in March. Russian crude steel production was down by 6.9% to 5.8 million tonnes, while the year to date total was 5.3% lower at 16.8 million tonnes. Ukrainian monthly production grew by 15%, bringing the year to date total to 5.5 million tonnes, up by 4.6% year on year. In Kazakhstan the year to date total was down by 10.5% to 1 million tonnes, while in Belarus it increased by 32% to 640 thousand tonnes.
On the North American continent, Donald Trump's steel tariffs continue to have an effect. US crude steel output increased by 5.7% in March and by 6.8% to 22.2 million tonnes in the year to date. Canadian production was less strong, increasing by 3.4% in the month, but 0.8% lower in the year to date at 3.3 million tonnes. Mexican steel output decreased by 3.8% in March, but grew by 4.4% in the year to date to 5 million tonnes.
Overall production was rather mixed in the South American region. Brazilian production declined by 8.6% in March, and was 2.8% lower in the year to date at 8.4 million tonnes. Argentinian steel production decreased by 31% in the month, bringing the year to date total to 1 million tonnes, a decrease of 18%. In Colombia the monthly total increased by 23%, while the annual total was up 3.1% at 284 thousand tonnes. Peruvian steel production was 1.9% down in the year to date to 291 thousand tonnes. Chilean year to date steel output was up 5.8% year on year at 315 thousand tonnes. Meanwhile, steel output in Venezuela continued to show weakness, falling by 65% in the month and 61% in the year to date to just 19 thousand tonnes.
In Africa, South African steel production was 3.1% higher in March but was 0.1% down in the year to date to 1.6 million tonnes. Egyptian production increased by 5.7% in March and by 10.3% in the year to date to 2.1 million tonnes. In the Middle East, growth in Iran continued strongly with a 19.7% increase in steel production in March with the year to date total up by 7% to 6.2 million tonnes. Saudi Arabian steel production increased by 18.4% in the year to date to 1.4 million tonnes. Production in the United Arab Emirates grew by 10% in the year to date to 805 thousand tonnes.
Turning to the Far East, Chinese steel production increased by 10% in March to 80.3 million tonnes, bringing the year to date total up by 9.9% to 231 million tonnes. Japan's March production was flat while the year to date total was 5.4% lower at 25 million tonnes. Crude steel production in India was down 1% in the month, making 27.3 million tonnes in the year to date, a decrease of 0.3% on the previous year. South Korea's production was up 2.8% in March, while the year to date total was up by 1.6% to 18.1 million tonnes. Taiwan's monthly production fell by 0.1%, bringing the year to date total to 5.8 million tonnes, an increase of 9.1%. Vietnam's year to date total increased by 44.9% to 4.1 million tonnes.
The 10% growth in Chinese production slowly seems to be filtering through to elevated export levels. Whilst they remain comfortably below those of a few years ago, exports grew by 13% in the first quarter. This was driven by an increase in shipments of HR bars to Vietnam and Korea; plate to Vietnam, Korea and Japan; CR to Colombia, Brazil and Taiwan; HDG to Italy, Belgium and Russia; and seamless tubes to Algeria and Korea.
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