Flat steel inventory levels at German stockholders fell in March for the eighth consecutive month on continuing severe material shortage, according German steel stockholder association BDS data seen April 21.
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At 1.05 million mt, March flat steel stocks fell 2.4% from February and 13.2% year on year, reaching the lowest point since records began 33 years ago, though the BDS highlighted to S&P Global Platts that historical data pre-1990 only applies to the former West Germany.
Long steel stocks saw an opposite direction in March, increasing for the third month, to 815,606 mt, up 2.9% compared with February. In a year-on year comparison, long steel stocks were largely stable (down 0.1%).
Sales of both flat and long steel grew month on month in March according to BDS data. Long steel saw a heavy 35% increase to 327,874 mt while flat steel sales volumes grew 12.8% year on year to 642,853 mt. In annual comparison, long steel sales were up 1%, whereas flat steel sales were down 14.2%.
No end in sight for shortage
According Platts' latest German monthly sentiment survey, participants expected further declines for April in inventories, with the index at 40, just slightly up from March at 39 (50 denotes stability).
Volumes from mills and imports remain limited on the spot market. Sources said there would be no possibility to restock as most purchases remain back to back.
The tight material availability for flat steel has pushed coils prices to the highest price level ever recorded, according to Platts' data, as demand has grown faster than production since summer 2020. The Platts daily hot-rolled coil assessment increased Eur33/mt on day to Eur955/mt EXW Ruhr April 20, having seen a Eur559/mt increase since June last year.
Buy-side sources told Platts that credit lines from lenders have not increased proportionally with the price increases, making it difficult to secure financing for purchases while some mills have introduced "no credit line insurance, no delivery" rules on new bookings.