BEIJING - China's crude steel output grew 10 percent in March compared with the same month a year ago as mills ramped up operations amid a profit margin recovery and less stringent curbs on production in the country's anti-smog crackdown.
Mills in the world's biggest market for the metal churned out 80.33 million tonnes last month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Wednesday, up from 73.98 million tonnes in March 2018.
Average daily output in March was 2.59 million tonnes, the strongest level since October and up from 2.39 million tonne in March last year, according to Reuters calculations based on the official data.
Cities in northern China imposed at least five months of production restrictions on heavy industry, including steel mills, over winter in a bid to cut emissions and improve air quality. But the curbs were lenient compared with the previous winter.
"With winter anti-smog measures lifted, steel mills are keen to churn out more products in order to cash in on fat profit margins," said Wang Yilin, an analyst from Sinosteel Futures, speaking before the data was released.
Current profit margins at steel mills have rebounded to around 700 yuan ($104.41) a tonne after a plunging in late November last year amid waning demand from downstream sectors.
Weekly utilisation rates at steel mills across the country climbed to 69.48 percent in the week up to April 12, data compiled by Mysteel consultancy showed, a level last seen in the week up to July 20.
"We expect steel output to continue increasing in the coming months as demand remains solid," said Wang.
For the first three months of this year, China produced a total of 231.07 million tonnes of steel, up 9.9 percent on the same period last year, the official data showed.