EU28 apparent steel consumption increased (+3.6%) year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2020 –the first quarterly growth since the fourth quarter of 2019. and so it did in the first quarter of 2021 (+0.9%).
Apparent steel consumption in the first quarter amounted to 36.3Mt. These are further signs of recovery from the depths of the economic shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, claims the European Steel Association (EUROFER).
“Although the general economic recovery in the EU appears to be uneven and exposed to risks, the recovery in steel-using industries and in steel demand should continue through 2021,” said Axel Eggert, EUROFER’s director general. “This is being driven by the stronger-than-expected recovery of industrial sectors, whose output is recovering the losses experienced during the pandemic.”
Mirroring the improvement in demand, domestic deliveries in the EU in the first quarter of 2021 increased (+1%, after the growth of +4.6% recorded in the fourth quarter of 2020).
Data for the first quarter also showed the continued downturn in imports from third countries compared to apparent consumption. After the record drop (-25.4%) in the third quarter of 2020, imports from third countries dropped – albeit less severely – also in the fourth quarter of 2020, (-5.4%) and in the first quarter of 2021 (-2.5%), that is the ninth consecutive quarterly drop.
“Although the general economic recovery in the EU appears to be uneven and exposed." to risks, the recovery in steel-using industries and in steel demand should continue through 2021."Axel Eggert, director-general, EUROFER
The loosening of COVID measures over the third quarter of 2020 allowed industrial activity to restart, with a considerable rebound in output compared to the record lows seen in the preceding quarter, which continued – at an even faster rate – over the fourth quarter of 2020 and up to the first quarter of 2021, driven by a faster-than-expected recovery in output in some sectors (domestic appliances and automotive in particular).
This has happened despite considerable problems in the global supply chain, particularly for the automotive sector (rising transportation costs, rising fuel costs, shortage of components). Steel-using sectors’ output growth over the fourth quarter was still negative (-1.4%), i.e. the fifth consecutive quarterly drop, but at a much lower rate than the third quarter (-6.8%).
This paved the way for a stronger acceleration in industrial recovery over the first quarter of 2021, despite persistent economic uncertainty due the ongoing pandemic across the EU. As a result, steel-using sectors’ output grew (+2.6%) in the first quarter of 2021; that was the first quarterly increase since the third quarter of 2019.
The industry in the EU has recovered the output loss experienced during the pandemic, but activity remains exposed to fragility and risks, due to persistent uncertainty around vaccination plans and ongoing consequences of the pandemic.