(Bloomberg) -- Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second-largest iron ore producer, believes Chinese consumption of steel is close to topping out, with demand next year likely to be similar to 2023.
China’s appetite for iron ore, the main steelmaking ingredient, has picked up in recent months as some brighter spots in the economy help to offset poor demand from the key property sector.
However, the past two decades of rapid growth in consumption of steel is probably coming to an end, according to Rio Tinto Group CEO Jakob Stausholm.
“We are foreseeing that the peak steel demand in China is about to be reached,” he said during an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “Not because the Chinese economy is not growing, but just because of the maturity it has reached.”
The notion that China’s steel market is poised to contract this decade — after many years of breakneck growth — is widely held across the industry. Rio’s rival BHP Group reckons annual output has reached a plateau just above a billion tons each year that will stretch into 2024. Analysts at Capital Economics Ltd. said demand and supply probably peaked in 2020.
Iron ore traded at the highest since April last week and has largely held above the key $100-a-ton threshold this year. That’s despite waves of worrying news from the property sector, which made up about 40% of demand in more typical years.
Futures in Singapore were down 1.5% at $119.95 a ton at 4:16 p.m. Shanghai time. Futures in Dalian fell 1% while hot-rolled coil in Shanghai closed higher and rebar finished lower.
--With assistance from Thomas Biesheuvel, Yvonne Yue Li and Andrew Janes.
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