Shares in ArcelorMittal SA took some comfort on Thursday from a forecast that Chinese production restrictions would help to lift global steel prices in the first quarter of 2018, although temporarily.

Arcelor’s shares were 2.3% higher by midday at 399c, but they are barely above the recent 2017 low of 350c. Over the past year, the shares have lost 64%, battered by weak economic growth in SA.

SA’s largest steel maker reported in November that its export sales in the September quarter rose 49%.

MEPS International, the steel sector consultancy, said in its December International Steel Review that the Chinese government had recently announced another round of production restrictions from mid-November to mid-March, in an effort to curb winter pollution.

The selling prices of Chinese steel products have been rising for most of this year, MEPS said. Chinese producers had prioritised domestic sales and cut back on exports.

SA, North America and Europe have all taken steps in the last couple of years to restrict Chinese imports.

"MEPS believes that surging Chinese values should enable producers in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as many other parts of the world, to lift their selling figures in the first quarter of 2018.

"However, we expect that global transaction values in this period are likely to represent the peak of the current cycle — with prices projected to decline during the rest of the year," it said.