During the last 10 years, a small group of emerging economies in Asia have supported the growth in total global steel production. While India and South Korea have contributed, production from China overwhelmingly leads globally. Accounting for half of global steel production, analysts worldwide monitor China's monthly production figures closely for signs of economic strength but also to gauge forward pricing expectations based on global demand and the production response of competing mills overseas.
- Between 2004 and 2014, China increased its annual steel production almost three times to about 823 million tons. At that volume, China's steel output was five times more than all of Europe, nearly seven times more than North America, and nine times more than the United States.
- In 2014, due to the cool-down in the construction boom in China, low domestic demand for steel halted China's output growth. As a result, prices for steel and iron ore fell significantlly worldwide and continued to decline through 2015.
Turn the page to 2016 and the Chinese steel industry continues to dominate industry headlines. Total monthly production figures have repeatedly hit record levels, floating between roughly 69.5 and 70.5 million metric tons, but with a note of caution on the sustainability of this production volume.
- Production accelerated this year on the heals of a slight recovery of global iron ore prices. In December 2015, the price per metric ton measured at Tianjin Port, China, reached its lowest level since prices began their historic climb in early 2008.
- China's total production of 401.1 million tons during the first half of 2016 was about 0.6 percent less than the 403.7 million tons it produced during the same period last year.