Steel Market Insight March 2021

Steel Market Insight March 2021

As a passionate observer of economics and finance it is a pleasure to contribute to an ongoing quarterly newsletter column regarding historic, current, and future trend perspectives on various material and commodity inflationary and deflationary impacts on the building and infrastructure sectors on behalf of the Calgary Construction Association.

In this article, attention is specifically devoted to examining the use of steel in building and infrastructure projects. Starting with some facts drawn from the 2020 World Steel Organization and other sources, one begins to better appreciate the global big-picture and the inflationary risk pressures lying ahead.

Global Steel 2020 Statistics

  • Global Steel production rose from 189Mt in 1950 to 1864Mt in 2020 and comes in 3,500 different grades.
  • The top 5 producers are China (1,053Mt), India (99.6Mt), Japan (83.2Mt), Russia (73.4Mt) and USA (72.7Mt).
  • Buildings & Infrastructure account for about 52% of steel used globally around the world.
  • Application use is split with 44% in reinforcing bars, 31% in sheet products, 25% in structural sections.
  • Steel is the most recycled material in the world and in construction recycling of steel is approaching 85%.
  • Over 25 billion Tonnes of steel scrap have been recycled since 1990, almost 630 million tonnes annually.
  • On average new steel products contain about 30% recycled steel without any compromise in quality.
  • The average energy intensity per Mt of steel produced has dropped from 50 GJ/t in the 1960s to 20 GJ/t.


Current North American Economic Realities

According to a recently released analysis, the American iron and steel industry is a dynamic part of the U.S. economy, accounting for more than $520 billion in economic output and nearly two million jobs in 2017, when considering the direct, indirect (supplier) and induced impacts.

The Global Steel Trade Monitor May 2020 report shows that the United States accounted for the largest share of Canada’s imports by source country with 43% (2.9 mMt), with steel imports in flat, long, pipe and tube, followed by South Korea at 7 % (0.5 mMt), China at 5% (0.4 mMt), and Japan at 4% (0.3 mMt).

Canada was the world’s nineteenth-largest steel importer in 2019, importing 6.8 million metric tons of steel, a 24 % decrease from 8.9 million metric tons in 2018. Canada’s imports represented about 2 percent of all steel imported globally in 2019.

Canada imports steel from over 100 countries and territories. The ten countries and territories labeled in the map below represent Canada’s top sources of steel in 2019, each sending more than 150 thousand metric tons and together accounting for 5.4 million metric tons of steel or 78% of Canada’s total steel imports.

Within Canada the top five steel producers are as follows.

The recent 2020-2021 price spike in raw steels.


Future Competing Global Realities

Most of the