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Steel Demand Is Dwindling As China Grapples With New Lockdowns

Steel prices for hot-rolled coil in Europe have started to decline as end-users push back from earlier offers. Meanwhile, benchmark iron ore prices in China dropped, due to the country’s zero-Covid policy. One analyst noted that steelmakers in Europe are cutting back their production.

“Steel would get a bit of support from production cuts … crude was down 6.8% in Q1 year on year,” one analyst told MetalMiner, referring to the World Steel Association’s (Worldsteel) global numbers. Global crude production for the first three months of 2022 was almost 457 million metric tons, compared with 490 million metric tons over the same time in 2021, Worldsteel’s numbers show.

Europe’s crude steel production for 2022 was down 3.8% to about 36.2 million metric tons from 38.3 million metric tons, Worldsteel data also indicated.

Comparative steel prices by region:

Although US steel prices continue to rise, Chinese HRC prices have clearly flattened.

China’s Zero-Covid policy is driving demand down

China’s Zero-Covid policy and the lockdown in Shanghai has pushed iron ore’s benchmark price for 62% Fe fines to $136 per metric ton cfr China. This is down almost 10% from $151 on April 22, one analyst said.

“The next question is how far will they fall? Iron ore, I reckon, if Beijing goes into major lockdown will be below $100 soon,” that source added.

The first trader believed that prices would continue to decline in the short term. He did not rule out that they could bounce back. However, one reason for this is that China is now eyeing an increase in export tariffs.

Reports about plans by Russia to take over eastern and southern Ukraine could also push up steel prices as plants in the occupation zone could become subject to sanctions that the European Union placed against Russian steel products on March 15. This could severely impact end-users in Central and Eastern Europe.

Back in Ukraine

Ukrainian flats producer Zaporizhstal has also started to put out feelers for prices on its flat-rolled products. after Metinvest said it would bring the plant back on stream. The trader believed that there would not be much interest from that steelmaker.


“Who is going to risk buying from Zaporizhstal?” due to the risk of rail infrastructure damage, the trader asked.

Zaporizhstal can produce up to 3.8 million metric tons of pig iron. Its seven open-hearth furnaces and one bath furnace can pour 4 million metric tons of crude steel.

The plant can also roll up to 3.6 million metric tons per year of hot-rolled sheets and coil. Further downstream, the plant has an annual capacity of 1 million metric tons to produce cold-rolled coil.

By AG Metal Miner

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