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Stainless Steel growth to continue

World Steel Association : 17 May, 2004  (New Product)
The International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) is forecasting another year of growth for global stainless steel production.
The International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) is forecasting another year of growth for global stainless steel production. The forecast, released during ISSF’s Annual Conference in Seoul, shows that stainless steel production is expected to reach 24.4 million metric tonnes (mmt) in 2004. This represents a rise of 6.8% on 2003 production.

In 2003, worldwide stainless crude steel production rose by 10.4% to 22.8 mmt. This was on top of a rise in production of 7.8% (to 20.7 mmt) in 2002.

Table 1: Stainless Crude Steel Production
Region 2002 2003 +/-% 2004 (f) +/-%
Western Europe/Africa 8,628 9,055 4.9 9,650 6.6
The Americas 2,734 2,831 3.5 3,000 6.0
Asia 9,049 10,645 17.6 11,400 7.1
Eastern Europe 252 277 9.9 300 8.3
Total World 20,663 22,808 10.4 24,350 6.8
(f) forecast. Source: ISSF.

Asia is now the largest stainless steel producing area in the world. In 2004 Asian production is expected to grow by more than 7% to 11.4 mmt after an extraordinary high increase of almost 18% in 2003. All stainless steel melting countries in Asia will contribute to this further growth with the strongest increase expected in China, where major new capacities are about to be commissioned.

The second biggest region in stainless steel melting is Western Europe/Africa. Total output in this region grew by approximately 5% in 2003 and will accelerate to 6.6% in 2004, bringing production in this area to 9.7 mmt. Due to the re-structuring of melting activities in the European multi-national stainless steel mills, the growth in individual countries will not be comparable to previous years.

Production in The Americas is expected to total 3 mmt in 2004, a 6% increase on the 2003 total. Most of this growth will be provided by Brazil. Stainless crude steel output in The Americas grew by 3.5% in 2003.

Eastern Europe currently shows a strong increase in consumption of stainless steel. However, local production will not be able to meet this demand. In 2003 the stainless melting activity in this area grew by about 10% to 280,000 tons. A further increase, to 300,000 tons, is expected in 2004.

At the current time ISSF does not see too many risks to this forecast in global production growth. Worldwide recovery in the general economy will drive demand, not only in Asia. A severe shortage of raw materials is not expected in 2004. Erratic price volatilities, as experienced for nickel from the end of 2003 until April 2004, are in no way justified with the current supply situation. A possible slight tightness in virgin nickel supply should be easily compensated by higher scrap availability.

Outlook for 2005

ISSF considers the strong increase in demand for stainless steel during 2003, especially in China, was partially caused by stock-builds thereby reducing growth potentials for the 2004/05 period. ISSF believes that the growth for stainless steel production will decrease slightly in 2005 compared to 2004. The expected increase in 2004, well above the long-term average, includes a certain, and necessary, stock build at stainless steel service centres and fabricators. This trend could reverse in 2005 under the impression of a slowdown in major economies. However, the expected growth in stainless production of 6.2% in 2005 meets the long-term average for stainless steel market growth.

In 2005 ISSF expects Asia to show the strongest growth in stainless production. In general ISSF believes that all major regions will achieve a further stainless crude steel production increase – but at a reduced rate.

Table 2: Stainless Crude Steel Production: forecast for 2004 and estimate for 2005
Full Year
Region 2004 (f) 2005 (e) +/-%
Western Europe/Africa 9,650 10,100 4.7
The Americas 3,000 3,150 5.0
Asia 11,400 12,250 7.5
Eastern Europe 300 350 16.7
Total World 24,350 25,850 6.2
(e) estimate, (f) forecast. Source: ISSF.
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