During 2020, the global economy recorded the worst downturn since the 1930s. Global real GDP for 2020 is expected to contract by 4.2%, compared to a growth of 2.6% in 2019. Aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus by governments and central banks, respectively, were injected into the global economy to soften the downturn and, in turn, support economic recovery.
Current Chinese economic data remains highly supportive of strong steel demand, accelerating credit growth and ongoing improvements in fixed investment and the purchasing managers’ index, along with strength in the property sector. As a result, Chinese steel production remained elevated throughout the period under review and, despite improved global iron ore supply, the market balance was tight with strong iron ore prices.
The titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment market fundamentals softened with high supply, most notably from China, and weakened global demand. The willingness to spend, by a weakened consumer base and behavioural changes to end markets, which TiO2 is most exposed to, have negatively influenced overall demand levels during 2020.
The Brent crude oil market was characterised by the significant impact of COVID-19 measures, collapsing demand and the Saudi Arabian and Russian price war.
During 2020, for the first time ever, the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia, the world’s three largest oil producers, cooperated to boost oil prices from historically low levels. However, resurgence in COVID-19 cases, towards the end of 2020, has deterred the recovery in demand.