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The drop comes after previous increases in crude steel output bolstered belief in a stabilisation in the industry.

“The February figures show that the steel sector is still affected by a difficult environment,” WV Stahl said.

Detailed data for January 2013 shows that output of hot rolled steel products was up by 0.6% year-on-year to 2.954 million tonnes, largely driven by an increase of 5.8% year-on-year on the long products side to 990,000 tonnes.

In contrast, flat products output fell by 1.9% year-on-year in the first month of 2013 to 1.964 million tonnes.