According to the World Steel Association, global crude steel production for the first five months of the year amounted to 729 (769) million tonnes, down 5.2% compared with the same period in 2019. Chinese steel production increased by just under 2% and steel production in North America decreased by 15%, whereas production in the EU-28 contracted by 17% compared with the same period in 2019.
In North America, the heavy plate market weakened during the quarter as a result of Covid-19, as many customer segments sharply reduced production. Inventory levels at distributors are assessed to be at a low level still.
In Europe, demand fell during the second quarter in the wake of significantly lower industrial activity, particularly in the Automotive segment, due to Covid-19. Industry was shuttered in large parts of Europe during the first half of the quarter. Production has gradually resumed but at a lower level than before the crisis.
Global demand for high-strength steel fell during the second quarter, albeit with regional differences, with improved demand in China but lower demand in, for example, Europe and North America.
In North America, market prices for heavy plate fell initially during the second quarter but subsequently recovered. In Europe, market prices for both strip and heavy plate fell during the second quarter, while prices for the same products rose in China.
Third quarter demand for steel is expected to be negatively affected by industrial deceleration due to the effects of Covid-19. In Europe in particular, but also to some extent also in North America, this effect is expected to be intensified by normal seasonal slowdown. Underlying demand is expected to improve somewhat toward the end of the third quarter. Global demand for high-strength steel is expected to be somewhat less affected than demand for standard steel.
SSAB Americas’ shipments are expected to remain at more or less the same level as in the second quarter of 2020. For SSAB Europe and SSAB Special Steels, shipments are expected to decrease during the third quarter compared with the second quarter of 2020.
Prices realized by SSAB Americas are expected to be relatively unchanged on average, compared with the second quarter of 2020. For SSAB Europe, prices are expected to be somewhat lower, with generally lower contract prices partly counteracted by a positive product mix. Also for SSAB Special Steels, prices are expected to be somewhat lower in the third quarter than in the second quarter of 2020.