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EU flat steel shipments fall 19% on year through April, stocks soar

London — Flat steel product shipments from EU steel service centers fell by 18.5% in January-April from the same 2019 period, as lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic took their toll on industrial activity, the European Federation of Steel, Tubes and Metals Distribution & Trade (Eurometal) stated June 5.

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Shipments by stockholders and distributors of EU multi-product & proximity steel, including long steel construction products, fell 8.7% in January-April from the year-ago period, with only rebar shipments increasing, Eurometal said.

Steel distributors, service centers and traders supply around 80 million mt/year of steel, tubes and metals, accounting for more than 60% of supplies to end-users in EU manufacturing and construction industries, Eurometal said.

In April strip mill flat steel product shipments plunged 50.8% on year, compared with a 17.4% on-year decline for the month of March, the distributors' group said.

Lower shipments led to higher stocks, with flat products inventories at EU steel service centers soaring in April to the equivalent of 139 days-worth of shipments, nearly double the 76 days-worth of April 2019.

Stock volumes in the multi-product & proximity steel distribution category were equivalent in April 2020 to 94 days of shipments, up from 80 days-worth in April 2019.

Eurometal members said in late May they were optimistic that steel distribution levels had started to show an upturn.

The World Steel Association forecast June 4 that global steel demand would decline 6.4% overall in 2020 from 2019 levels. Steel demand in the developed economies is however expected to decline this year by 17.1%.

"The manufacturing sector, which was forecast to enter a recovery phase in early 2020, was pushed back into a deeper recession as lockdown measures led to a massive fall in orders," worldsteel said in its short-range forecast. The steel sector association said the EU's automotive sector – which uses primarily flat steel products – is expected to be the worst hit of the region's manufacturing sectors, while the construction sector – a significant user of long steel products – could remain relatively resilient.