The steel outlook for 2024: navigating challenges and growth opportunities

Shelby McCurdy | Posted on 09.25.2023 | Steel Industry

The steel industry, often regarded as a barometer for the global economy, is currently undergoing a slow but steady recovery. In this overview, we delve into the present conditions of the steel market and explore the projections for 2024, considering various influencing factors.

Global Market Dynamics:

As of now, global steel demand is anticipated to experience growth in the coming year. However, several factors, such as high-interest rates, international influences, and the recent United States auto workers’ strike in Detroit, Michigan, contribute to the fluctuations in demand and prices, impacting the industry’s future outlook.

The steel market, closely tied to the global economy, is contending with the aftermath of the recent US recession, high inflation rates, and supply chain disruptions on both domestic and international scales. Despite these challenges, most countries are witnessing incremental improvements in steel demand and growth rates throughout 2023.

Projections for 2024:

According to the World Steel Association (worldsteel), a 2.3% rebound in 2023 is expected to be followed by a 1.7% growth in global steel demand in 2024. While China, the world’s leading steel industry, is expected to experience deceleration, the majority of the world anticipates growth in steel demand. Additionally, the International Stainless Steel Forum (worldstainless) forecasts a 3.6% increase in global stainless steel consumption in 2024.

In the United States, where the post-pandemic economic rebound has slowed manufacturing activity, growth is expected to persist in sectors such as public infrastructure and energy production. After a 2.6% decline in 2022, US steel use bounced back by 1.3% in 2023 and is projected to grow by 2.5% through 2024.

Challenges on the Horizon:

However, a notable variable that could significantly impact the steel industry in the near future is the ongoing labor dispute between the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and the “Big Three” automakers—Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis.

The duration of the strike directly correlates with the production of automobiles, influencing the demand for steel. Given that steel constitutes more than half the content of an average vehicle and nearly 15% of US steel domestic shipments go to the automotive industry, a decline in demand for certain types of steel could cause substantial market fluctuations.

The Impact of the UAW Strike:

The ongoing strike raises concerns about reduced demand for hot-dipped and flat-rolled steel, along with a potential decrease in automotive manufacturing steel scrap. This combination could lead to significant price swings in the market.

The large volume of scrap steel generated by automobile manufacturing typically influences steel prices. A decline in production and demand due to the strike may result in a rise in scrap steel prices, while unused products remaining on the market could contribute to falling steel prices.

As reported by EUROMETAL, prices for hot-rolled and hot-dipped steel weakened in the weeks leading up to the UAW strike, reaching their lowest points since early January 2023.

Uncertainties Ahead:

While the World Steel Association’s Short Range Outlook notes a recovery in car and light vehicle sales in the US, uncertainties loom regarding the potential impact of the strike on sales, production, and, consequently, steel demand in 2024.

In conclusion, the steel industry is poised for growth in 2024, with various challenges on the horizon. Navigating the complex interplay of global economic factors, labor disputes, and industry dynamics will be crucial for stakeholders looking to capitalize on growth opportunities while mitigating potential risks.


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