Singapore -- China's crude steel output rose by 9.2pc from a year earlier to 149.58mn t in January-February, as looser winter restrictions allowed mills to keep operations on line.
Daily crude steel output averaged 2.54mn t/d in the two-month period, slightly higher than 2.46mn t/d in December but lower than 2.59mn t/d in November, data from the national statistics bureau (NBS) show. Output averaged 2.32mn t/d in the first two months of 2018.
NBS releases combined data for the two months to smooth out the impact of the lunar new year holiday.
China has loosened its pollution controls this winter, maintaining steel supplies. That sent steel prices lower in the first half of winter, in contrast to a year earlier when output cuts tightened spot supply.
Pig iron output rose by 9.8pc in January-February from a year earlier to 126.59mn t. The faster growth than steel reflected gains in market share by blast furnaces, as negative margins cut electric-arc furnace output.
Real estate investment rose by 11.6pc in January-February, the fastest pace since 2015. But traders remain cautious because that investment is yet to translate into housing sales, which are falling. NBS said commercial sales volumes by area fell by 3.2pc for residential, 15.7pc for office buildings and 13.6pc for businesses.
Other key steel-consuming sectors were mixed in January-February. Manufacturing grew by 5.6pc, with equipment production up by 4.4pc and shipping, rail and other transportation equipment up by 7.9pc, but automobile production fell by 15.1pc.
January-February infrastructure investment rose by 6.1pc as the government continued to speed up construction of new railways and airports, as well as urban transportation networks, to offset weakness from the China-US trade war.