The International Stainless Steel Forum released preliminary stainless steel production figures showing that 4.8 million metric tons of stainless was produced worldwide in the first quarter of 2009. This is the lowest level of first quarter production since 2000.

Production in China and the Americas increased in the first quarter when compared to the already depressed fourth quarter of 2008. The relatively good performance of the Chinese stainless industry may be partly explained by the government’s economic stimulus package, which seems to have created some additional demand for stainless in the country. The increase in the Americas region is on a very small volume of just 411,000 metric tons. All other regions showed decreases in production.

Compared to the first quarter of 2008, global stainless steel production was down more than a third in the first three months of 2009. Most stainless steel producing areas showed losses of more than 40%. The exception is China, where production fell by just 10.3%. All areas of the world are showing extraordinary stock reductions and low levels of demand in stainless steel-using industries due to the global economic slowdown.

The market share of chromium-nickel steels is largely unchanged in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the full year 2008. However, chromium stainless steels have seen a relatively large reduction in their market share, which is mainly due to the global downturn in car production. The market share of chromium-manganese grades has risen somewhat due to demand from the Chinese domestic market.