BRUSSELS (AP) -- World steel output plunged 21.3 percent in the first six months of 2009 from a year ago, the main steel industry group said Monday.
Chinese and Indian steel makers were the only major producers to increase output in the first half, the World Steel Association said. China, up 1.2 percent, makes more steel than any other nation. India expanded its steel production by 1.3 percent.
North American output almost halved while European output was down 43.2 percent. Asian steel makers -- which make nearly two thirds of world steel -- were down far less, by 7.8 percent.
The group said the pace of this contraction slowed down in June, when world output fell 16 percent from the same month last year.
Global steel output fell last year after climbing for six years on higher demand for the metal that supports buildings and is turned into cars and machinery.
The downturn comes after steel makers built up massive stocks, expecting that demand from emerging economies would surge despite recession in richer nations. Many of them, including the world's largest, ArcelorMittal, are now laying off workers and trimming steel output.
The association represents 18 of the world's largest steel companies which jointly make 85 percent of global steel.