April 18, 2024

Steel Market Summary - Australia

World Steel Demand To Enter Growth Period

Earlier this month the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, announced his plan for Australia´s manufacturing sector as our country and the world respond to the challenges of climate change and international supply chain disruptions. The details of the ambitious Future Made In Australia Act are yet to be finalised; however, the future production of green steel will be a key element within the plan´s many initiatives. Mr Albanese´s statement (more details later) came a few days after the World Steel Association (WSA) predicted that 2024 will see a 1.7% rebound in global steel demand, reaching a total of 1,793 million metric tonnes (Mm/t). That trend is expected to continue in 2025 with a further 1.2% increase to 1,815 Mm/t. The figures are found in the WSA´s Short Range Outlook. The WSA is one of the largest industry associations in the world. Its members represent around 85% of global steel production and are found in every major steel-producing country. Commenting on the forecast, Dr Martin Theuringer, chairman of the WSA´s economics committee said, “After two years of negative growth and severe market volatility since the COVID crisis in 2020, we see early signs of global steel demand settling into a growth


trajectory in 2024 and 2025.”

However, the WSA believes demand will be very region and industry specific. It forecasts that steel demand in China in 2024 will remain around the level of 2023, as real estate investments continue to decline. However, that steel demand loss will be offset by growth in demand coming from infrastructure investments and the manufacturing sectors. For 2025, the WSA sees China steel demand returning to downtrend with a 1% decline. In contrast, if we take China out of the equation, the WSA predicts a broad-based, global growth in steel demand at a relatively strong level of 3.5% per annum over 2024-25. The WSA says: “India has emerged as the strongest driver of steel demand growth since 2021 and our projections suggest the country will continue to charge ahead with 8% growth in its steel demand over 2024 and 2025. This will be driven by continued growth in all steel-using sectors and especially by strong growth in infrastructure investments. In 2025, steel demand in India is projected to be almost 70 million tonnes higher than in 2020.”

The WSA noted in its Outlook that a residential construction downturn driven by high interest rates and high construction costs over the past few years had dragged down steel demand across most major steel using regions. Certainly this was clearly evident in Australia. The concern is that the WSA believes any meaningful recovery in residential construction is only expected to begin from 2025 onwards. However, the WSA finds more optimism in the fight against climate change. “We believe that the green transition of the world economy, which requires an economic transformation of unprecedented magnitude and scope, is one of the major factors behind the strength in public infrastructure investments. For example, a recent Economics Committee study estimated that global steel demand for new wind energy installations will triple by 2030 to around 30 Mm/t when compared with early 2020s,” the WSA says.

The essence of Mr Albanese´s Future Made In Australia Act is that some industries will qualify for subsidies if they embrace new technologies which are modernising manufacturing and helping the planet. Decarbonising and the move to green steel is an example. Critics say the prime minister´s plan amounts to protectionism and will create a class of businesses reliant on government subsidies, making Australia less competitive in the long run. They say that what used to be called protectionism is now being rebadged as supply chain security, and as “sovereign capacity” amid rising geopolitical tension and as green energy transition. In recent months Australian Steel News has spoken with many executives in our domestic steel industry. All were open to the notion of green steel, but none envisaged it as economically viable in the near term – even with subsidies. Mr Albanese said Australia would be left behind if we didn´t adopt the type of government-led measures already underway elsewhere in the world, namely: America´s Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS Act. The European Union has European Economic Security Strategy. Mr Albanese claims the government needs to be a more strategic, more sophisticated and constructive contributor to the nation´s economy.

Bisalloy Steels is in the news for all the right reasons. It has received an initial purchase order from Newport News Shipbuilding, which is one of the largest military shipbuilders in the United States and one of two US companies which design and build US nuclear-powered submarines. Bisalloy will process the steel at its Port Kembla facility. The integration of Australian steel into the Newport News Shipbuilding supply chain paves the way for further opportunities for local suppliers in Australia. The order represents a critical step in strengthening the industrial supply base for the AUKUS program.

Finally, early next month AustralianSteel.com will run a special feature on stainless steel. Any business wanting to appear in the feature has just one week left to sign up. So hurry!