The COVID-19 pandemic slashed steel consumption forecasts and the overall economic outlook across the EU. Shutdown measures implemented by governments that began in earnest in March 2020 severely impacted manufacturing activity and steel-using industrial sectors. However, some of the measures that had the greatest impact on the economy were loosened as of June 2020, though many measures remain in effect or have been reinforced in recent months.
EU steel market overview
EU28 apparent steel consumption fell (-11.6%) year-on-year in the third quarter of 2020 (that is for the seventh consecutive quarter, after an unprecedented drop (-25%) in the second quarter) and amounted to 32.8 million tonnes.
The volume for the third quarter 2020, albeit higher than the record low seen in the second quarter, reflects the unprecedented deterioration in steel demand due to the severe disruption brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to the negative factors that had materialised in the preceding quarters and had already led to a sharp, continued reduction in steel consumption.
As a result, the downturn in steel demand led to the eighth consecutive fall year-on-year in domestic deliveries in the EU in the third quarter of 2020 (i.e. -8%, much lower than -28.1% recorded in the second quarter).
Data for the third quarter also showed the continued downturn in imports from third countries. After the severe drop (-16.8%) in the second quarter of 2020, imports from third countries dropped even more severely in the third quarter of 2020, with a year-on-year fall (-25.4%), that is the fourth consecutive quarterly drop of more than 10%.
EU steel-using sectors
The COVID-19 outbreak has further hit EU industrial sectors at a time when these had already been experiencing a severe downturn and were coping with serious challenges. Over the course of 2019, business conditions in the manufacturing industry had continued to deteriorate. This downward trend has gained speed in the second half of 2019, particularly in the automotive industry, while the construction sector has continued to outperform other major steel-using sectors.
This has resulted in a pronounced slowdown in output growth in steel-using sectors. This has culminated in unprecedented drops over the second quarter 2020, mainly as a result of the severe lockdown measures imposed by governments in March and April 2020. Total output in steel-using sectors fell (-24.4%) in the second quarter of 2020. In the third quarter of 2020, output in steel-using sectors has rebounded compared to the previous quarter – thanks to restarted industrial activity across the EU – but has nevertheless fallen year-on-year (-6.4%).
Brussels, 13 September 2023 – The European steel sector welcomes the vision for a renewed Industrial Strategy set out by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the State of the Union address. Relaunching Europe’s industrial engine with concrete measures in all relevant policy areas should be both a core mission for the final year of this legislature and a top priority for the future EU executive. The European steel sector, which has launched over 60 industrial-scale decarbonisation projects, stands ready to engage with the Commission to develop and implement the urgent actions needed to boost the whole European cleantech ecosystem, says the European Steel Association.
Brussels, 11 September 2023 – The European metals industry, including both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, has initiated the process to establish its own EU Transition Pathway* in collaboration with the European Commission. The metals sector plays a pivotal role in facilitating the EU’s green and digital transitions by enabling several strategic value chains at the core of the clean tech economy. The objective of this comprehensive plan is to ensure the sustainability and resilience of the metals sector, aligning it with the overarching objectives of the EU twin transition.
Brussels, 16 August 2023 – On 14 August, the Commission initiated two anti-circumvention investigations regarding possible circumvention via Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam of the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures imposed in 2021 and 2022 against imports of stainless steel cold rolled flat products from Indonesia. EUROFER welcomes the openings and the immediate registration of the imports from those countries towards a possible retroactive application of the existing duties.