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Giant Japanese steel mill signals pandemic recovery taking root

A surge in automotive demand is making it attractive for Nippon Steel Corp. to restart facilities it shut earlier this year even as the world’s third-biggest steelmaker cautioned that longer-term domestic demand remains anemic and its plan to cut output by shutting aging mills will remain on track.

In the last two weeks, Nippon Steel has announced plans to reopen at least three more blast furnaces as demand for steel recovers. It will examine restarting more furnaces as the current capacity is still tight, Katsuhiro Miyamoto, executive vice president of the Tokyo-based company, said Thursday in an interview.

The auto industry’s recovery, combined with resurgent steel prices in Asia backed by the strength of China’s economy, has come as a relief for steelmakers in Japan after the pandemic squeezed already shrinking local demand.

Worldwide crude steel output next year will probably return to levels seen before the pandemic, supported by China and a pickup in many other countries, Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co. said last month.

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