China mills crank up Jan-Feb crude steel output by 13% on firm demand outlook

China’s crude steel output rose 12.9% in the first two months of 2021 compared with a year earlier, as steel mills increased production in expectation of more robust demand from the construction and manufacturing sectors.

China produced 174.99 million tonnes of crude steel in January and February, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data showed on Monday. The bureau combined data for the first two months of the year to account for the distortions of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

Average daily output stood at 2.97 million tonnes, up from 2.94 million tonnes in December and compared with a daily average of 2.58 million tonnes in Jan-Feb, 2020.

China’s mammoth steel market has expected construction and fast-recovering manufacturing to support consumption this year.

Investment in China’s infrastructure projects and real estate market surged 36.6% and 38.3%, respectively, in the first two months, the NBS said in a separate statement on Monday.

And China’s manufacturing sector investment picked up rapidly after being hit by the coronavirus pandemic to soar 37.3% in Jan-Feb from the same months in 2020.

The capacity utilisation of 163 major blast furnaces surveyed by consultancy Mysteel was above 82% in the first two months.

However, the government has vowed to cut output to reduce carbon emissions from steel producers, which, at 15% of the country’s total, is the biggest contributor among manufacturers.

Top steelmaking city Tangshan pledged on Sunday to ensure 50% emission cuts during heavily polluted days and punish those who violate regulations, after the environment ministry found four steel mills had failed to implement output curbs during heavy pollution.

Worries about steel output curbs have hurt benchmark iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange, with those for May delivery sliding 5% since March 11.