(Bloomberg) -- ArcelorMittal SA cautioned on the outlook for steel demand, noting the woes of the Chinese real estate sector and tighter monetary policy could drag on consumption this year.

Whether China will recover strongly after lifting tough coronavirus restrictions has been the key question for commodities markets. Industrial metals surged at the start of the year on bets of higher demand from the world’s top consumer, but have since stalled as investors wait for concrete signs of a rebound.

China could see an expansion or contraction of 1% in steel demand, with the country’s beleaguered property industry acting as a headwind, ArcelorMittal said Thursday in a statement.

“With continued weakness expected in real estate during the year, steel consumption is expected to stabilize in 2023 with potential upside dependent on government infrastructure stimulus,” the company said.

Apparent consumption of steel outside of China — a key barometer of the world economy — is projected to increase 2% to 3% in 2023, after contracting in key regions last year, ArcelorMittal said. That will largely be driven by the rebuilding of inventories, while growth in real demand from consumers will face headwinds.

“As we look ahead, evidence suggests that the customer destock we saw in the second half of 2022 has peaked, hence providing support to apparent steel consumption and steel spreads,” ArcelorMittal Chief Executive Officer Aditya Mittal said in the statement. 

ArcelorMittal rose as much as 1.8% in Amsterdam trading, before trading 0.9% higher as of 9:40 a.m. local time.

ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker outside of China, saw earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization drop to $1.26 billion in the final quarter of 2022, after a slump in demand forced it to idle some European capacity. That was slightly higher than analyst estimates. Lower prices and high energy costs, driven by the war in Ukraine, also eroded its margins.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says

“ArcelorMittal’s fiscal 4Q Ebitda of $1.26 billion is broadly in line with published consensus, but it’s encouraging that the outlook is clearly improving. The company expects to ship 5% more steel in 2023 and see steel-spread support as consumer de-stocking comes to an end.”

— Grant Sporre, BI metals and metals analyst

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