ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, trimmed its forecast for global steel use on Friday due to a more pronounced slowdown in China and a decline in Russia, though it retained optimism about its core European and US markets.
The company, which makes about 6% of the world's steel and is a broad gauge for the health of global manufacturing, said apparent steel consumption, which includes inventory changes, should increase by between 3.0 and 3.5% in 2014.
That compared with its previous forecast for growth of between 3.5 and 4% and last year's expansion of about 3.5%.
ArcelorMittal itself, which sells more than 85% of its steel in Europe and the Americas, retained its own forecast that it would report a core profit of some $8.0 billion in 2014, up from $6.9 billion in 2013.
It said this was based on a 3% increase in steel shipments, a 15% rise in shipments of iron ore, a moderate improvement in steel margins and average ore prices of about $120 per tonne. They had fallen to about $106 by the start of this month.
ArcelorMittal, more than double the size of its nearest rival, reported first-quarter core profit (EBITDA) of $1.75 billion, the same as the average expectation in a Reuters poll of brokers. Last year, the figure was $1.57 billion.
The company said its steel earnings per tonne increased in every segment except North America, which was hit by an extremely cold winter.
Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal said the year-on-year improvement was the result of recovering steel markets, the expansion of its mining operations and benefits of cost controls.
"The prospects for growth of our core markets in Europe and the US are encouraging and overall we remain cautiously optimistic about the business outlook for the rest of 2014," he said in a statement.
The steelmaker is forecasting a slowdown in consumption growth in China, Brazil and the former Soviet states, accelerated US market expansion of 4% and improvement in the European Union after declines in 2012 and 2013.
It is now seeing a Chinese slowdown to between 3.0 and 4.0%, from 3.5-4.5% before. For the former Soviet states it is seeing a contraction of between 2% and zero, from a gain between 1.5 and 2.5%.
By contrast, it has raised its forecast for growth in the European Union by 0.5%age points to 2-3%.