China's 2018 crude steel output to hit record level: government research body

An employee works next to molten iron at a steel mill of Dongbei Special Steel in Dalian, Liaoning province, China July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s 2018 crude steel output is expected to set an annual record of 923 million tonnes before slipping back to 900 million tonnes next year, a government consultancy said on Monday.

Output in the world’s top steel producer jumped this year from 831.73 million tonnes in 2017, with major mills boosting production to fill a gap after Beijing shut down low-grade steel capacity that had not previously been included in official data, said Li Xinchuang, president at the China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute.

“Steel output is moved by the general economic situation and demand in both domestic and global markets,” Li said at a briefing, adding that China’s ongoing anti-pollution campaign and uncertainty stemming from Sino-U.S. trade friction would also affect the steel market.

The consultancy also predicted that steel consumption in China would fall to 800 million tonnes in 2019 from 820 million tonnes this year, dragged down by waning demand in the property, automobile and energy sectors.

China is expected to consume 1.206 billion tonnes of iron ore this year, up 1.6 percent from a year earlier, the institute said in a report. Use of the key steelmaking ingredient will drop to around 1.147 billion tonnes next year alongside declining steel output, it said.

The government research body also predicts China will export a net 55 million tonnes of steel products in 2019, down slightly from 56.2 million tonnes this year.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Joseph Radford