Japan Sheet Steel Supply to Get Tighter in July-September

Japanese sheet steel supply is expected to get tighter in July-September when the steel using industries including automobile keep the high level activities and the inventory adjustment progresses with lower import. The market increases the expectation for higher price. The market price is likely to keep increase trend when distributors expect integrated steel makers will increase the selling price in and after July to cover higher cost of raw materials. Nippon Steel reported the hot rolled, cold rolled and coated sheet steel inventory held by makers and distributors was 4.1 million tonnes at the end of April. The inventory decreased for 3 months in a row though the level was over the targeted 4 million tonnes. Japanese integrated steel source said the inventory decreases smoothly and will decrease to less than 4 million tonnes at least by the end of June. Japanese hot, cold and coated sheet import decreased to less than 200,000 tonnes in April for the first time in 6 months. The import decreases in recent months. POSCO of South Korea, which reportedly has trouble in hot strip mill, is expected to halve the flat steel export to Japan in July-September. Japanese sheet steel demand keeps firm. Japanese integrated steel sees the automobile output will increase by 100,000-200,000 units in first half due to higher export from original estimate. Some estimate the output could increase by around 5% to 11.2-11.4 million units in fiscal 2006 ending March 2007 from 10.89 million units in fiscal 2005. The demand is expected to keep firm for industrial and construction machinery and appliances while the steel industry expects building demand, which is slow due to scandal of earthquake resistance deception, will recover in July-September.