Latin American Steel Trade Advances Amid Falling Imports And Stable Consumption

Posted on 16 January 2020
 

Source: Alacero

At a moment of low dynamism in the world economy (thanks to the slowdown in developed and developing countries) long-term regional factors and political transitions in several countries have contributed to a very challenging environment in Latin America. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), excluding Venezuela, the average GDP growth in Latin America is increasing, but only 1% per year, partly reflecting the largest recession since World War II experienced by Brazil, the largest economy in the region. The stagnation of the economy in Mexico since the beginning of 2019 and also the macroeconomic imbalances observed in Argentina, in addition to the global financial crisis, unrest in countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile, also undermined the economic performance of Latin America.

In this context, the consumption of rolled steel in October was 5% lower than the total registered in the same period of 2018. Despite the 4% increase compared to September 2019, the accumulated until October remained 5% lower than in the same period of the previous year. Even so, it was 0.3% higher than the average for the first 9 months. The balance had a slightly positive trend, totaling 202 thousand tons, 4% above the result observed in September. The growth is due in large part to the consumption of Guatemala (26%), Argentina (24%), Brazil (17%), Mexico (16%) and Ecuador (14%).

In November 2019, crude steel production totaled 4,828 Mt, 10% less than November 2018. The accumulated until November (55,722 Mt) was 8% lower than the same period of the previous year. The result was 5% below the average of the first 10 months. Mexico was responsible for the largest part of the fall (58%) and registered the worst indicator since March 2016.

Rolled steel production reached 3,971 Mt, 10% less than November 2018. The accumulated until November also fell 8% compared to the same period of the previous year. Upon reaching the lowest level in 35 months, the total decreased by 4.3% compared to October and showed a 6% lower result than the average of the first 10 months of 2019. Much of the negative regional balance is due to the deficit of Brazil (75%) and Argentina (36%), which experienced decreases in their annual and monthly productions.

“We cannot expect markets to solve socio-economic problems by themselves. Governments should review their public policies to stimulate growth and prioritize sustainable development, taking advantage of the current low cost of financing. We need to refocus our efforts towards exports, ” says Francisco Leal, General Director of Alacero.

Imports slow down
With a total of 1,929 Mt, October imports were 6% lower than the same month of 2018. The accumulated until October remained 3% below the equivalent period in 2018. However, there was a 10% increase in comparison to September, which had already registered a punctual decrease due to the volatility of the Mexican market.

The result was 0.4% higher than the average for the first 9 months of 2019. The largest increases in imports were observed in Guatemala (54 thousand t), Ecuador (30 thousand t), Brazil (23 thousand t), Argentina (17 thousand t) and Chile (12 thousand t). In the first 11 months, China’s rolled steel imports fell 27% in Latin America. In January, the total imported was 559 thousand tons, while in November it was 410 thousand tons.

More exports
October exports reached 836 thousand tons, 9% above the result seen in the same month of 2018. Although the accumulated (7,655) was 4% lower than the same period of 2018, the total registered a 14% growth compared to October of the previous year, the best indicator since May 2019. The result of exports was 9% above the average of the first 9 months. Brazil expanded its exports by 12%, followed by Mexico (15%) and Argentina (20%).

Lower trade deficit

In October, the trade balance registered a 15% lower deficit than the same month of the previous year and presented a 3% drop in the accumulated deficit until October compared to the same period of 2018. Although in October the deficit was 7% higher than in September, the total was 6% lower than the average of the first 9 months of the year. 



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