German flat steel stocks rebound in May for first time since August

Flat steel stocks at German stockholders grew in May for the first time since August 2020 from historic low, according to data from German steel stockholder association BDS.

Average flat steel stocks in May rose 6.7% month on month to 1.1 million mt, still at comparatively low levels amid tightness in the market, making it difficult to stock up. Market participants told S&P Global Platts there has been a little bit more spot availability from volumes not taken by the automotive industry and stockholders saw the opportunity to buy more to build up stock.

Compared with May last year, stock levels were down 14.4%.

Average sales of flat steel in May fell 10.5% month on month to 488,920 mt, but rose 36% year on year, showing the recovery compared to the same time last year when the market was hit by demand slump during the first wave of the pandemic.

Contrary to flat steel, stock levels of long steel in May fell 1.3% month on month and 2.1% year on year to 809,053 mt. Sources said for some long products such as medium sections supply was tight.

Sales of long steel increased slightly by 0.5% month on month to 292,381 mt in May, increasing 15.2% year on year.

According to Platts monthly German steel sentiment survey published earlier this month, market participants expected inventory levels to remain low as mills get through months-long order backlogs, but they showed they were hopeful of a small boost in available capacity over the summer period.

The sentiment survey revealed participants still expected very low inventories at an index of 32 — 50 denotes stability — though this was higher than May’s index of 28.

Prices for long and flat steel in Northwestern Europe saw continued increases over recent months, though price rises have not been as rapid as before. The daily Platts assessment for hot-rolled coil EXW Ruhr stood at Eur1180/mt June 22, an all-time high, while the weekly assessment for rebar stood at Eur810/mt EXW Northwest Europe June 18, the highest price since June 2008 at Eur815/mt.

— Laura Varriale