German distributors’ sales fall in March, stocks remain high

Sales at German steel distributors saw a 19.1% month-on-month fall in April, whereas stock levels remained largely stable, reflecting the limited buying activity last month, latest figures from the stockholders’ association Bundesverband Deutscher Stahlhandel (BDS) show.

Sales amounted to 858,012 mt in April, of which long products saw an 18.7% drop from the previous month to 272,080 mt while flat products fell to 491,538 mt, down 21.2%. On a year-on-year comparison sales decreased 10.1%.

Stock levels for April, which showed fairly high levels over the past months compared to previous years, saw a slight drop of 1.2% from March to April at 2.4 million mt, but a y-o-y increase of 3.6%.

“Inventories are still high: stockholders say not only that they are full but also their external stocks are high and in the Ruhr area there is no more room to put anything,” said a source close to a mill.

Broken down by product, longs showed a 6.7% y-o-y increase to 860,229 mt and flat products grew by 6% y-o-y to 1.5 million mt. Other products showed a contrary y-o-y development, decreasing from 66,401 mt to 60,298 mt, thus explaining the rather modest overall y-o-y growth rate of 3.6%.

Sources in the flat steel market in particular told Platts that buying activity was limited in April while stocks remain high as steel service centers bought more than usual in Q4 and early Q1.

Figures for Q1 this year show that stock levels amounted to 2.44 million mt, up 8% on year and remaining fairly high compared to previous years. Average figures topping those levels were last seen in Q3 2014, when stocks stood at 2.51 million mt. However, sales volumes also grew on a quarterly comparison, rising 6.4% y-o-y to a monthly average of 963,284 mt. Similar averages were also last seen in 2014, when monthly sales levels reached 962,793 mt in Q1 that year.

Laura Varriale, PLATTS