BEIJING (Reuters) - China's crude steel output in the first two months of 2023 rose 5.6% from a year earlier, official data showed on Wednesday, as many domestic steel mills ramped up production in February in anticipation of a pick-up in demand in March.
The world's top steelmaking country produced 168.7 million tonnes of the metal in January and February, according to data from the country's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
China releases combined data for January and February to account for distortion created by the irregular timing of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which this year began on Jan. 21.
Average daily output stood at 2.86 million tonnes, a rise of 13.8% from the daily average in December 2022 and 6.8% higher than the daily average of 2.68 million tonnes in the corresponding period in 2022, according to Reuters calculations based on the NBS data.
The blast furnace capacity utilisation rate was 80.98% as of Feb. 24, marking a rise of 5.77 percentage points from 75.21% in late December 2022, data from consultancy Mysteel showed.
China has rolled out a raft of stimulus policies, particularly in the property market, as part of efforts to support its economy which had been constrained by the strict measures to contain the COVID-19 in the majority of 2022.
Crude steel output from China rose 2.3% to 79.5 million tonnes in January, data from World Steel Association showed earlier in February.
Iron ore imports also rose in the period, reaching 194 million tonnes during January and February, a year-on-year rise of 7.3%, and the highest ever for the two months combined, data showed earlier this month.
Analysts estimated daily average output to increase further in March as China has entered its peak construction season, generating strong demand for steel.
Beijing has not made it clear whether it will stick to its policy of zero growth in annual crude steel production this year, but analysts expect annual output in 2023 to either remain flat or increase slightly