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Member mills of the China Iron & Steel Assn (Cisa) produced crude steel at an average rate of 1.56 million tpd during the first ten days of this month, up 3.7% from the last eleven days of January, according to estimates from the industry body reported late on Monday February 22.

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

The pick-up in steel output came earlier than expected. Most market participants had not anticipated any change to output levels ahead of the February 7-13 Chinese New Year holiday.

“It’s hard to find a reason for the production increase. I can only guess that some mills might have taken an early step in preparation for the post-holiday demand from the market,” a Shanghai-based trader told Steel First.

As at February 10, Cisa member mills had a combined finished steel inventory of 13.85 million tonnes, up 15.23% from January 31 levels, the association’s data shows.