Japan’s domestic manufacturing sector is keeping the nation’s steel demand up amid trade war uncertainty

Source: S&P Global Platts

Date: 8 August 2018

Japanese steelmakers plan to lift crude steel production to 27.07 million mt over July-September, up 4.3% year on year and up 1.8% from June-July, a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (“METI”) survey released Tuesday showed.

Register Now A METI official in charge of the survey said Wednesday that the increase was planned to correspond with firm domestic and rising export demand amid improving economic conditions, “but the impact of trading measures taken by overseas countries, such as the US over Section 232, is unknown — we have to monitor the movement cautiously,” he said.
A Tokyo-based trader said Japanese mills continue to prioritize meeting domestic demand, limiting supply for export, “but domestic stock has increased and mills have some availabilities for export.”

Finished steel output for the domestic market is expected to reach 15.73 million mt in the quarter, up 5.6% on year and down a marginal 0.2% from the previous quarter, while output for export is planned at 7.77 million mt, up 0.5% on year and up 6.8% on quarter.

The production plan for byproduct H-beam output for the current quarter is 1.12 million mt, up 16.8% on year and up 8.5% from April-June.

For small bars, the plan is to produce 2.14 million mt, up 2.5% year on year and down 2.9% from the previous quarter.

The trader said small bar production in Japan typically declines in summer due to seasonal mini-mill shutdowns aimed at reducing higher-priced power consumption, so the quarter-on-quarter decline did not imply a decrease in small bar demand.

“Overall construction steel demand will stay firm and demand from manufacturers will not decrease; we expect Japanese mills to keep levels of output high,” he said.

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