Japans crude steel output rose to its highest level for
five months in March 2012, but was still lower year-on-year.
Production increased in March to 9.32 million tonnes, 2.3%
higher than in the corresponding month a year earlier and 8.3%
more than in February this year.
Japanese mills reported tentative signs of better demand after
a year in which the steel market was kept in check by low
economic growth and was hit by one-off events.
We expect demand to improve slightly in the coming
months, but we still cannot say we are near a full
recovery, an official at one Japanese producer told Metal
Export demand is picking up, as is buying from areas still
rebuilding after last years earthquake, the official
said. But the overall economic recovery remains fragile, and
the strong yen remains a concern despite a recent retreat, he
Blast furnace operators increased their production by 8.8% over
Februarys levels to 7.03 million tonnes, although volumes
were still down by 0.6% on the year.
Electric arc furnace operators volumes were up by 6.8%
month-on-month and by 12.4% year-on-year to 2.28 million
tonnes, as they boosted output before Tokyo Electric Power
raised its electricity charges for corporate clients in April,
the Japan Iron & Steel Federation (JISF) said.
Hot rolled production increased by 8.8% month-on-month and by
3.7% year-on-year to 8.47 million tonnes, while carbon steel
output was up by 9.4% on the month and 0.6% on the year to 7.16
Speciality steel production rose by 4.6% month-on-month and by
8.6% year-on-year to 2.15 million tonnes.
Output for the year fell to 106.46 million tonnes, the first
decline in two years, as demand for vehicle steel plunged in
the wake of the March 2011 disaster. Exports slumped because of
the strength of the yen and a drop in vehicle output due to
flooding in Thailand, despite extra demand for steel for use in
post-disaster reconstruction, the JISF said.