NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Global steel demand is poised to increase as steel producers are looking to ramp up production to meet the growing demand. World crude steel production for 66 countries reporting to the World Steel Association was 108 million metric tons (mmt) in February, up 24.2% from February 2009, according to data released by the association earlier this week. Higher steel production across the globe was led by a 54.0% increase by Japan to 8.4 mmt, followed by 22.5% increase by China to 50.4 mmt. Further, the world crude steel capacity utilization ratio for the 66 countries in February was 79.8%, a 15-month high since September 2008 and a 12 percentage point increase year over year.
Major Producers Beef Up Production
The global steel market has bottomed and will grow by 9.2% in 2010 as demand rebounds in the U.S., Europe and Japan, the World Steel Association said last October. As a result, major steel producers have chalked out plans to meet the upcoming rise in demand. ArcelorMittal ( MT), the world's biggest steelmaker, is weighing expansion of its iron ore production capacity by 67% to 100 mmt by 2015, said Peter Kukielski, a member of the group management board and head of mining for ArcelorMittal, at the Asia Mining Congress on Tuesday. The stock has seven "buy," two "hold" and no "sell" ratings, according to TheStreet's analyst ratings guide. ArcelorMittal, Nippon Steel and Posco ( PKX) are seeking to purchase or expand mines to cut costs as Chinese demand crimps global supplies of iron ore. Posco, Asia's most profitable mill, will aggressively pursue investments in mines, CEO Chung Joon Yang said last month at a shareholder meeting. Following suit, Rio Tinto ( RTP), the world's second-biggest iron ore producer, is planning to expand production to 330 million tons a year by 2015, said Sam Walsh, head of the business, at the Asia Mining Congress, while Brazil's Vale ( VALE) is operating close to its full capacity of 310 million tons a year, the company told Bloomberg earlier this year. Rio Tinto has eight "buy," three "hold" and one "sell" rating, while Vale has 11 "buy," seven "hold" and no "sell" ratings, according to TheStreet's analyst ratings guide.