The global demand for steel witnessed 10% growth in Q1 2021 when compared to Q4 2020, and also grew by 1.2% from Q1 2020. The post-lockdown recovery in steel demand has been stronger than initially anticipated, for most of the nations. China, the world’s largest steelmaking nation, produced 271 Mt of crude steel in Q1 2021, an increase of 15.6% compared to Q1 2020. Globally, the price of steel increased by 15% in Q1 2021, as compared to Q4 2020. The figure below depicts the change in demand and change in the price of steel over the past five quarters.
Source: World Steel Association, Lucintel
Figure 1: Global Quarterly Steel Shipment and Price Trends
Production of crude steel in the United States grew by 8.6% in Q1 2021, when compared to Q4 2020. However, US crude steel production declined by 6.3% in Q1 2021, as compared to Q1 2020. One of the major consumers of steel, the construction industry experienced growth. In particular, housing starts in the US grew by 1% during Q1 2021 from Q4 2020. In addition to this, industrial activity has also begun to rebound, leading to recovery of steel demand.
In terms of the production of steel in the European region, data indicates an increase of 4% in Q1 2021, when compared to Q4 2020, and it grew by 3% when compared to Q1 2020. In terms of prices, the European region registered an increase in the prices of crude steel during Q1 2021 compared to Q4 2020.
In Q4 2020, the production of steel in the European region grew by 7% when compared to Q3 2020. European steel market started to recover in Q4 of 2020 due to the growth of various end use industries like transportation, construction, and industrial production. EU private consumption and services provided strongest contribution to growth.
In Q1 2021, production of crude steel in the Asian region grew by 0.2% compared to Q4 2020, while it grew by 13% when compared Q1 2020. Countries like China, India, and Japan produced around 324.3 million metric tons of crude steel during Q1 of 2021, which is 8.1% up from the Q1 of 2020. Among all the Asian countries, China has generated a significant increase in crude steel production of more than 35 million metric tons. This is an increase of ~15% compared to the end of Q1 2020. The growing demand for steel is supported by the end use industries, and limited supply, leading to a surge in steel prices.
In Q4 2020, the market saw an increase in steel pricing. The recovery of production rates and normalization of inventory levels caused domestic steel prices in China to increase, reflecting improved operating conditions and higher raw material activity. China is demonstrating a powerful combination of increasing demand and effective government stimulus, which is propelling a quick recovery of steel demand in key end markets.