Sales at Japanese secondary stockists up 1% in September

Sales among Japan's second-tier dealers in September clawed back some of their sharp falls in the previous month but that was not enough to make any significant dent in stockpile levels.

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With domestic demand from most sectors slowing down, stockpile levels have become an increasingly worrying issue, forcing mills to keep very tight lids on production.

Overall sales rose by 1% to 2.53 million tonnes, led by a 2.1% increase in sales of galvanised sheet to 386,000 tonnes, a 2% increase in plate sales to 325,000 tonnes and a 1.8% rise in cold rolled sheet and strip shipments to 216,000 tonnes, according to the Japan Iron & Steel Federation.

Hot rolled sheet and strip sales rose by a more moderate 0.8% to 459,000 tonnes.

Pipe and tube sales also increased, by 2.6%, to 125,000 tonnes.

Sales of longs were mixed, with bar sales up by 2% to 363,000 tonnes but those of H-beam down 1.3% to 223,000 tonnes.

Although the figures look positive, they were down by 3.2% on the same period a year earlier and the market is becoming increasingly nervous about the outlook for demand in the coming months.

Moreover, despite the rise in shipments, inventories remained little changed on the previous month’s levels at what are generally considered to be overly high levels given the weakening outlook for demand.

Total stockpiles rose 0.2% to 2.7 million tonnes, with a 1.1% reduction in H-beam stocks to 233,000 tonnes and a 1.9% drop in light bar inventories to 132,000 tonnes being offset by rising stockpiles of flats.

Hot rolled sheet and strip inventories rose by 0.2% to 569,000 tonnes, while those of galvanised sheet rose by 1.2% to 452,000 tonnes. Cold rolled sheet stockpiles were up by 0.8% to 268,000 tonnes and plate stockpiles edged up 0.1% to 474,000 tonnes.

However, there are indications that stockists could be slowing down on inventory build-ups, particularly for flat products.

Not only is demand dropping off, but Tokyo Steel’s announcement that it is leaving prices for November unchanged has taken pressure off stockists to lock out any price hikes.