Of all the hard commodities, steel has suffered one of the worst rides of the crash.
It has nearly halved in price over the past couple of years, leading to thousands of job losses at steel plants in the UK and elsewhere.
Steel consumption has collapsed as economic growth in China, one of the biggest buyers, has slowed.
But production is still too high, leading to lower prices and a supply glut.
It’s gotten so bad that, according to a Macquarie research note, around 250 million tonnes of steel producing capacity has to be taken off the market for prices to return to normal and steelmakers to return to profit.
This is huge when you consider Western Europe produces only 170 million tonnes a year.
Here’s Macquarie research analyst (emphasis ours):
One key contributor to the ex-China declines is Southeast Asia, where apparent steel consumption was down 15% YoY in 4Q. These trends, if they haven’t already, are likely to lead market participants to the conclusion that we have already reached and passed peak steel globally.
Steel production is falling, but not by nearly enough, according to Macquarie. In fact, 2015 was the first year of falling steel production since the global financial crisis.
Here’s the chart:
A lot depends on China, both in terms of demand and supply. The country is yet to follow up on promised production cuts. Macquarie notes that although it has decided on cutting production by up to 150 million tonnes a year, only 20 million tonnes of the cuts have materialised so far.
Here’s the chart:
So, it looks like the pain for steel companies will continue long into this year.
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