Oil report

Nippon Steel to halt 2 blast furnaces to cope with falling demand

TOKYO, April 8 (Reuters) - Nippon Steel Corp, Japan’s biggest steelmaker, will temporarily shut two blast furnaces in Japan later this month to cope with declining demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, it said late on Tuesday.

The move is the latest in a series of production cuts by various industries due to the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.

Nippon Steel will temporarily stop a blast furnace in Kashima, eastern Japan, from mid-April and another in Wakayama, western Japan, from late-April, although it will make it possible to restart at any time, it said in a statement.

It will also suspend production of some of the coke ovens at Kashima and Kimitsu, in eastern Japan, and at Wakayama, in addition to a substantial reduction of their operating rates, which has already taken place.

To help keep people employed, every office and manufacturing base will close for about two days a month starting this month.

“We have been lowering the tapping ratio of blast furnaces, extending the time between blasting among other measures to cut steel output volume, but we have decided to implement additional measures to respond immediate sharp drop in steel demand,” it said.

In Europe, a collapse in demand from industry forced to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic has spurred a wave of closures of steel plants.

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi Editing by Sonya Hepinstall