More than 45 percent of China's steel companies reported profit losses in the first quarter of 2014 as an economic slowdown and seasonally low consumption pushed down prices, new data showed on Monday. Total profit losses stood at 2.33 billion yuan (378.46 million U.S. dollars) in the first quarter, compared to almost 8 billion yuan in profits in the same period last year, according to a report released by the China Iron and Steel Association. Despite the weak demand, output still increased during the period, which further exacerbated the oversupply that pressed down prices, the report said. According to the report, "the first quarter of 2014 was the most difficult quarter for steel firms since the start of the new century." First-quarter crude steel output stood at 202.7 million tonnes, up 2.37 percent, while output of steel products rose 5.3 percent to 261.41 million tonnes, the data showed. However, the rate of growth for both declined sharply from a year ago, the report said. Total sales revenues of steel companies stood at 868.89 billion yuan, down 0.79 percent year on year, according to the report.