China's largest steelmakers scaled back production in late October to the lowest since March 2018, after slightly increasing output from lows in late September.
China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) member mills' steel output stood at 1.7353mn t/d over 21-31 October, down by 7.43pc from the previous 10 days and down by 19.53pc from a year earlier. It fell below the previous 2021 low of 1.7688mn t/d over 21-30 September and was the lowest since 1-10 March 2018.
CISA data include more than 100 of the country's largest steel mills. Cisa estimated that China's total domestic crude steel output would average 2.3378mn t/d in October 2021, down by 4.9pc on the month and down by 21.4pc on the year. China's steel output in September shrank by 21.2pc on the year to a four-year low.
Mills have aggressively cut steel output in the second half of 2021 to meet policymakers' zero-growth target for year, but the cuts in late October were mainly driven by sharp price declines and waning late autumn demand.
Beijing's crackdown on commodity price speculation, especially for thermal coal, has also weighed on steel feedstock costs to lower the cost floor for steel prices.
Mills are likely to maintain slower production for the rest of the year on squeezed margins, soft demand and production restrictions. Mills' margins for HRC and rebar are at Yn100-250/t. Steel demand is not showing signs of a rebound as heavy snowfall struck most northern regions in early November, and the market is talking about colder temperatures caused by La Nina conditions to further depress steel demand.
Pollution controls around the Beijing Winter Olympics in February will add to already-strict winter pollution controls for Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and the Fenwei plain through March 2022. Cities in Jiangsu and Anhui as well as regions in north Hebei, north Shanxi, east and south Shandong and south Henan province were also added to the pollution control plan.
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