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Overall sales totalled 2.54 million tonnes last month, down from 2.70 million tonnes in July, according to the latest data from the Japan Iron & Steel Federation (JISF). Figures were up 1.7% on the year however, with all products apart from H-beam, recording year-on-year rises.
The monthly slump in sales was due to seasonal factors such as the week-long summer holiday in mid-August, rather than any fundamental slow-down in demand.
Light bar sales fell 4.1% on the month but were up 0.7% on the year at 358,000 tonnes, while H-beam sales stood at 223,000 tonnes, down 3.8% from July and down 1.5% compared with year-earlier levels.
Sales of hot rolled sheet and strip fell by 8.6% from July levels but were up 2.6% on the year at 467,000 tonnes. Cold rolled sheet and strip shipments were down 9.9% on the month but up 4.8% year-on-year at 243,000 tonnes.
Galvanized sheet sales in August reached 396,000 tonnes, down 8.1% from the previous month, but up almost 5% on the year. Plate sales fell 5.7% from July but rose by 2.5% year-on-year to 330,000 tonnes.
Pipe and tube sales fell 3.8% on the month to 124,000 tonnes after JISF upwardly revised July volumes to 129,000 tonnes. Sales were still up 2% year-on-year, however.
Although demand for flat products continues to lag behind demand for long steel, the year-on-year increase in sales indicates that demand for sheet and other products among smaller dealers is finally picking up as the country's economic recovery becomes more broad-based.
Until now, demand for flats has been largely underpinned by strong demand from a few key sectors such as the automotive industry.
Stockpile levels were largely flat on the month at 2.65 million tonnes as steel producers continued to curb output. H-beam inventories were down by 0.5% from July while those of plates and pipes and tubes dropped by 0.6%, and 1.6% respectively.
HR sheet and CR sheet stockpiles saw respective month-on-month rises of 1.1% and 0.4%, while light beam stockpiles rose by 4.9% over the same period.
Sales among Japan’s second-tier dealers fell by 6.6% month-on-month in August, although figures were still up on the year, reinforcing the view that demand is recovering.