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Nippon Steel Corp. snatched back its title of the world’s top steelmaker in terms of crude steel output in 2000 after being second to South Korea’s Pohang Iron & Steel Co. for the past two years, Nippon Steel officials announced Thursday.

Nippon Steel produced 28.1 million tons of crude steel during the year, up 3.77 million tons from 1999.

Shipments were helped by brisk exports, particularly to other Asian countries, while domestic demand recovered amid increased capital investment in the corporate sector, they said.

Pohang’s 2000 output came to 27.7 million tons, up 1.16 million tons from 1999. France’s Usinor SA, the world’s third-largest and Europe’s largest steel producer, has not yet announced its output for 2000. Judging from its performance during the year, however, it is unlikely to top Nippon Steel, they added.

Nippon Steel is bearish for 2001, however. “We are on a footing of cutting output until this summer,” one of the officials said, referring to the severe business conditions and falling prices the entire Japanese steel industry is suffering.

U.S. steel unions and makers have also charged Japanese steel firms with dumping products on the U.S. market, pressuring them to cut exports.

Pohang, on the other hand, is bullish, according to the officials, and has set an output target of 28 million tons for 2001, up 300,000 tons from 2000.

The two makers have formed a business alliance calling for joint investment and a comprehensive technology tieup accord.

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