The World Steel Association released its Short Range Outlook (SRO) for 2014 and 2015.
Global apparent steel use will increase by 2.0 per cent to 1,562 MT in 2014 following growth of 3.8 per cent in 2013. In 2015, it is forecast that world steel demand will grow by another 2.0 per cent and will reach 1,594 MT.
Hans Jürgen Kerkhoff, Chairman of the World Steel Association Economics Committee, reports: “The positive momentum in global steel demand seen in the second half of 2013 abated in 2014 with weaker than expected performance in the emerging and developing economies. As a consequence we are issuing a lower steel demand growth figure than our forecast released in April this year. The slowdown in China’s steel demand reflecting the structural transformation of the economy has contributed significantly to our lower global growth projection. We have also seen major slowdown in South America and the CIS countries due to falling commodity prices, structural constraints and geopolitical tensions. In contrast, the developed economies fared well this year. Recoveries in the EU, United States and Japan are expected to be stronger than previously thought, but not strong enough to offset the slowdown in the emerging economies. In 2015 we expect steel demand growth in developed economies to moderate, while we project growth in the emerging and developing economies to pick up. In China rebalancing will continue to act as a drag on steel demand.”
Prone to risks
As the World Steel Association further states, this outlook is prone to risks coming from various fronts: The US interest rates increase expected in 2015 is likely to impact global capital flows creating instability in the vulnerable emerging markets. At the same time the outlook in emerging markets is constrained both by the need for structural reforms and geo-political tensions and as a result energy prices, globally, have emerged as a new risk factor. In China, the rebalancing and transition towards a consumption-driven economy is not without challenges and uncertainties.
Lastly, the recovery in the Euro-Area is still constrained by household and government deleveraging. Apparent steel use in China is expected to slow to just 1.0 per cent growth in 2014 to 748.3 MT with rapid cooling of the real estate sector as the government’s efforts to rebalance the economy curtails investment and weakens business sentiment. The weak growth momentum will continue into 2015 and China’s steel apparent steel use will grow by 0.8 per cent to reach 754.3 in 2015. However, possible use of targeted stimuli and easing of restrictions on the real estate market in response to slower GDP growth could increase the forecast.
India and Japan
India’s outlook is improving following the election of a new government which promising pro-business reforms. In 2014, India’s steel demand is expected to grow by 3.4 per cent to 76.2 Mt in 2014, following growth of 1.8 per cent in 2013. In 2015 structural reforms and improving confidence will support a further six per cent growth in steel demand but elevated inflation and fiscal consolidation remain key downside risks to the outlook.
In Japan following a 2.1 per cent increase in apparent steel use in 2013, steel demand in 2014 is revised upward to increase by a further 2.3 per cent to 66.8 MT aided by governmental economic policies. However, as the positive impact of “Abenomics” fades away and with another expected consumption tax hike steel demand is expected to decline by -1.5 per cent in 2015.
United States, Central and South America
In the United States, after a decrease of -0.4 per cent in apparent steel use in 2013, steel demand is seen increasing by 6.7 per cent to 102.2 MT in 2014, a large upward revision, thru a strong growth in the automotive and energy sectors. Steel demand is expected to increase by 1.9 per cent in 2015. In Mexico steel demand is expected to grow by 6.9 per cent in 2014 and moderate to 3.5 per cent growth in 2015.
In Central and South America, apparent steel use forecasts have been revised down with most countries registering a negative growth and is expected to decline by -2.4 per cent to 48 MT in 2014 from 4.2 per cent growth in 2013. The combination of falling commodity prices and the delayed structural reforms is hurting steel demand across the region. Steel demand is expected to increase by 3.4 per cent in 2015. In Brazil, apparent steel use will contract by -4.1 per cent in 2014 to 25.3 Mt and will rebound only by 1.5 per cent in 2015 as problems such as high inflation, overvalued currency, high labour costs and infrastructure bottlenecks are curtailing investment activities.
Europe and MENA region
The recovery in the EU (28) has gained further momentum in 2014 and steel demand outlook has improved considerably to grow by four per cent to 145.9 MT after increasing by 0.8 per cent in 2013. The improvement reflects a pickup in steel using sectors in most countries, but notably the UK and Poland and those countries that underwent structural reforms. Apparent steel use in 2015 is projected to grow by 2.9 per cent. However, the EU is facing new challenges with disinflation and geopolitical tensions threatening the continued recovery. Apparent steel use in Germany is expected to show 3.2 per cent growth to reach 39.1 MT in 2014 and 2.3 per cent in 2015.
The outlook for apparent steel use in CIS has been revised down significantly in 2014 by -3.8 per cent to 56.9 MT following a 2.8 per cent growth in 2013 due to the crisis in Ukraine. In Russia, the weak trend in steel using sectors in the second half of 2013 continued, and in 2014 weak infrastructure investments combined with the impact of the geopolitical tensions constrained steel demand, leading to -0.5 per cent growth to reach 43.2 MT. In 2015 it will recover by 1.1 per cent to reach 43.7 MT. In Ukraine, the conflict in the eastern part of the country is a severe blow to its economic activities and apparent steel use is expected to decline by -19 per cent in 2014. In 2015, assuming a stabilisation of the political situation, CIS steel demand will grow by 1.9 per cent. In the MENA region, steel demand in 2014 has been revised down due to the political instability in some countries in the region, but is still expected to grow by 3.3 per cent to 67.6 MT aided by strength in the oil producing countries and again by 6.6 per cent in 2015. Overall apparent steel use in the developed economies will register over four per cent growth in 2014, but then slows to 1.7 per cent in 2015. On the other hand the emerging and developing economies excluding China will grow by 1.7 per cent in 2014, followed by a rebound of 4.7 per cent growth in 2015.