U.S. manufacturing companies bought less stainless steel and carbon products in May, and resellers of such products are relying more on inventories, according to a trade group representing the resellers. The Steel Service Center Institute (SSCI), which represents companies that purchase and distribute carbon industrial products and stainless steel to 300,000 U.S. manufacturers and fabricators, reports that the average daily shipping rate for steel service centers fell 13.7% in May compared with May 2000, and six out of seven product categories showed double-digit declines. The shipping rate was down 3.6% from April 2001. Year-to-date, the shipping rate has fallen 12.3%, with downturns in all product categories. "Despite reports that consumer confidence remains high regardless of today's economic climate, it's unlikely that economic forecasts will provide much inspiration," says SSCI President Thomas P. Conley. "I think we'll continue to see service centers tightening their budgets, looking for ways to reduce their expenses, and chiseling away at their inventories." SSCI said steel service centers reduced their inventories from 8.2 million net tons to just under 8.1 million net tons from April to May.