* EU output down by 5 pct, U.S. posts 5.8 pct fall
* Higher production in China spurred by rise in prices
* Steel customers in the West not in a rush to buy
By Silvia Antonioli and Harpreet Bhal
NEW YORK/LONDON, Feb 20 Stronger steel output in
top producer China and in Asia as a whole, offset falls in
Europe, the United States and most other producing regions in
January, data from an industry body showed on Wednesday.
Global crude steel production rose 0.8 percent to 125
million tonnes in January from the same month a year earlier,
data from the World Steel Association showed.
Output in China, which is also the top consumer of the
alloy, rose 4.6 percent in January to 59.3 million tonnes, while
Asia as a whole posted a 4 percent increase to 82.3 million
"China's January figure is quite strong, sentiment has
improved a little in the market lately. Higher steel prices in
the last few months encouraged producers to boost output," said
Jeremy Platt, a Chinese steel market analyst at British-based
"There has been restocking, although mainly based on
speculation rather than on real demand as there still is a lot
of uncertainly about how 2013 is going to pan out."
Meps said he expects Chinese steel production to be 755
million tonnes in 2013, or about 5 percent higher than last
Other Asian countries also posted solid growth in output.
Japan was up 2.7 percent and India was up 3.8 percent.
OUTPUT FALLS ELSEWHERE
The upbeat figures from Asia were partially balanced by
output falls in most other large producing areas, including
Europe and the United States.
"Europe and U.S. have many more problems than China with
demand at the moment," Meps steel and iron ore analyst Kaye Ayub
"Usually in the first quarter you have a bit of a peak in
demand based on restocking but we haven't really seen this yet
this year. There is a possibility that it may come later but for
now people do not see the need to order that much."
The EU registered a 5 percent drop to 13.5 million tonnes in
January. German production rose by 5.4 percent, while France
posted a 1.3 drop and Spain registered a 2.5 percent decline.
Italy, the second-largest steelmaker in the EU, posted a
much sharper drop, down by almost 20 percent, mainly due to a
production cuts at the country's largest plant, ILVA.
U.S. steel output fell by 5.8 percent to 7.3 million
"The U.S. steel market has been throwing some mixed signals
recently... but domestic prices for construction oriented steel
products have come down," Metal Bulletin Research steel analyst
Kashaan Kamal said.
"With housing starts dropping 8.5 percent from December and
the constant squeeze from cheaper imports, we expect the 5.8
percent drop in crude steel output in January to carry through
into February, where we may see a similar year-on-year weakness
Production in North America as a whole fell by 3 percent.
Steel output in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
fell by 6.2 percent, Latin America posted a 3.2 percent drop,
and Africa and the Middle East registered a 2.6 decline.