Steel Mills

ArcelorMittal Sees 3%-4% Growth in U.S. Apparent Consumption

Written by John Packard

During their earnings conference call with the financial analysts, ArcelorMittal spoke about excess Chinese steelmaking capacity which needs to be removed from the markets as well as demand outlook which they believe will improve in the United States and Europe during 2016. The following selected comments were taken directly from the ArcelorMittal conference call transcript dated February 5, 2016:

Beginning with China, we stated our Q3 results in November, but the price levels in China were unsustainable with the average CFR numbers losing approximately $60 per tonne. Since November, we have seen a number of positive developments relating to the China steel industry outlook. Premierly is enacting supply-side reform, targeting [indiscernible] companies within industry with excess capacities, including steel. I’ve seen numerous research people, suggesting that the action plan to tackle excess capacity in the steel industry is more determined and supported by a dedicated fund to provide social support to displaced workers. This also reflects my views post my most recent visit in November. I do believe that a capacity will be removed and the industry in China will restructure, but I expect that this will not happen short-term and will take time to be effective.

In the interim though, I’m also highly confident that the governments in our various operating jurisdictions will provide the necessary protection to domestic industries, as China makes this transition. I’m expecting continued positive news flow on this duty theme in both the U.S. and Europe, as we move through the first half 2016. We have seen a rebound of steel spreads in China from their unsustainable lows. I do not see this as a seasonal, but rather necessary to move back towards a most sustainable level of profitability. Clearly, an improvement impacting in China is supporting of pricing in our core markets and we have made positive steps in both the U.S. and Europe over the past two months.

In terms of the short-term demand outlook for our core markets, this remains positive. I think it is very important to recognize that the weak steel demand environment we saw in the Europe last year was due to a massive destock rather than a contraction of real demand. Despite rapidly contracting energy markets real steel demand in the U.S. did increase in 2015. As destock matures, we anticipate stronger apparent demand in the U.S. in 2016. We also anticipate another year of positive demand growth in Europe. Clearly, the extent to which imports are deterred through duties will influence how much domestic producer’s shipments can increase. While nothing is certain, I’m optimistic on this front.

…I want to address demand… the ArcelorMittal shipment weighted global PMI has continued to remain in positive territory. Although we have seen a recent decline, which has been consistently all of the critical steel level indicating continued growth in demand for our steel. Real underlying demand continues to grow across our key developed markets. The U.S. has been impacted by the weakening of energy investment and the strength of the U.S. dollar. Although, it is worth noting that underlying real demand continues to grow particularly in the automotive and construction….

…driven by a significant destock apparent steel consumption in the U.S. declined by 9.6% in 2015. However, underlying demand continues to expand and due to the absence of a further destocking in 2016, apparent steel consumption in the U.S. is expected to grow by 3% up to 4% our 2015 levels despite an expected further decline in [indiscernible] demand.”

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