Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 08/13/2012 -- South Korean metals consumption growth is set to moderate sharply in 2012 as the country's exports of manufactured goods are hit by a global economic slowdown and an expected contraction in the European market. South Korea is a major producer of steel and slab zinc, but domestic mining output of ferrous and nonferrous metals is small and the country is reliant on imports for the raw materials required by the metals industry. Domestically produced metals and metal products are fundamental to the country's industrial base, as well as trade.
The leading market for steel and aluminium consumption growth in South Korea is the automotive industry, which saw production surge by 9.2% year-on-year (y-o-y) to 4.23mn units in the first 11 months of 2011. Despite an expected recession in Europe causing a slowdown in the global economy and the strength of the won, the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA) is confident there will be a 3.1% rise in output to 4.7mn units in 2012 on the back of a 3.9% rise in exports to 3.2mn units.
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On the downside, the deep contraction in South Korea's construction industry continues unabated, with the country having posted poor growth figures for 2011. However, we believe the construction sector will recover in 2012, with our forecasts showing construction real growth to reach 3.1% due to the low base, as well as more commercial construction activity.
In the first 10 months of 2011, South Korea's crude steel output rose by 18.9% y-o-y to 56.71mn tonnes (mnt). The rate of growth was better than the 12.8% growth forecast by BMI and has prompted a revision in our output estimate for 2011 from 65.9mnt to 68.5mnt, an increase of 17.4% y-o-y.
There was a shrinkage of demand in markets at home and abroad in Q411 and BMI believes it is unlikely demand for steel products improved in H112 and consumption will be sustained at around Q411 levels. Recent growth in capacity at home threatens to create a situation of overcapacity, with BMI forecasting a slowdown in output growth to 2.9% and a 1.0% fall in finished steel consumption in 2012.
Steel-making capacity is set to grow over the medium term, with Hyundai Steel planning a third 4mn tonnes per annum (tpa) blast furnace at Dangjin by 2013 as it seeks to ramp up its steel-making capacity in South Korea to meet accelerating demand from builders and automobile makers. Hyundai Steel's new steel works will also produce high quality automotive steel plates. POSCO and Hyundai Steel expect to reduce their HR steel export volumes in 2012, instead diverting production of 400,000 tonnes each to their own hot-rolled outputs for use as feedstock for the production of downstream products.
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