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Member mills of the China Iron & Steel Assn (Cisa) produced crude steel at an average rate of 1.628 million tpd during the first ten days of the month, down 3.6% from the last eleven days of January, according to data released by the industry body late on Monday February 16.

Cisa members, which are mainly medium-sized and large steelmakers, account for roughly 80% of the country’s total steel output.

Market observers were not surprised by the further drop in output, as some mills had scheduled maintenance in the face of falling prices and slow trading activity before the February 18-24 holiday.

In the country’s steelmaking hub of Hebei province, blast furnace utilisation rates averaged 88.57% as at February 13, down slightly from 88.89% a week earlier, according to market sources.

As at February 10, Cisa member mills’ combined finished steel inventory totalled 14.917 million tonnes, up 1% from January 31 levels, data from the industry body showed.

“I don’t think it’s a good signal for the post-holiday market, as inventory is up while production is down, which reflects weak demand,” a Shanghai-based analyst said.