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Global stainless steel melting activities increases to new record high

International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) : 07 March, 2011  (Special Report)
The International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) today released the preliminary stainless steel crude steel production figures for the full year 2010.
According to ISSF the global stainless steel melting activities increased by 24.9% to a new record high of 30.7 million metric tons (mmt). This came after 3 years of declining stainless steel production driven by stock cycles and global economic crises. The strong recovery of the global stainless steel production has several reasons: economic recovery, strong end-use demand, re-stocking at service centers and fabricators and also the re-filling of the internal supply chain in the stainless steel mills which alone can count for half a million tons.

Stainless steel melting in Asia (without China) increased by 20.8% to 8.6 million tons. Japan increased its stainless production by 31.5% to 3.4 mmt thus partially compensating for heavy losses in previous years. Korea (+22.1%) and India (+17.6%) also achieved clear two digit growth rates while Taiwan (++3.2%) at the same time was flat. Even during the past years of global economic crises China was the driving force in stainless crude steel production and the country added another 27.8% production growth in 2010 almost 11.3 mmt. All Asian stainless steel producers now cover 65% of the entire world’s stainless steel production.

The next biggest producing area Western Europe plus Africa has reported an increase of stainless steel production by 22.1% and thus achieving a volume of slightly less than 7.9 million tons in 2010. All countries of this area – except South Africa – contributed significantly to this growth. The growth rates of the major producing countries ranged from +14% to +37%.

The Americas grew their stainless crude steel melting by 34.4% to 2.6 million tons while Central and Eastern Europe’s production achieved a clearly over-proportional increase of + 43.6% - bringing this area to 0.3 mmt – still almost negligible in global context.

Comparing the performances of the single quarters of 2010 with the same of 2009 show very different growth rates during the year clearly reflecting the improvement of the global development in course of the year 2010 and the heavy re-stocking in the first part of the year. Quarters 1 (+ 57.8%) and 2 (+ 33.1%) were clearly stocking driven compared with the same quarters in 2009 – where still depressed business activities in stainless steel were recorded. Quarter 3, however, showed already signs of back to normal with a plus of 5.3%. Quarter 4 finally showed a surprising strong increase of stainless steel production by 14.1% compared to quarter 4/2009 to an all-time quarter 4 high. This is partially due to the expected further improvement in the global economy in 2011.

For a couple of years the stainless steel market has seen major changes in its grade categories with the rising importance of Chrome-Manganese steels and more recently of chromium grades.

For 2011 ISSF expects a further increase of the global stainless steel production based on strong end-user demand. Some threats may arise from bubbles in raw materials and energy prices.
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