Shipments of steel from U.S. service centers increased 1.8% from February to March, while Canadian centers' steel shipments increased 2.0%. The daily shipping rates declined, however, and year-on-year results as well as year-to-date tonnage totals show 2013 trailing the 2012 pace.

Metal Service Center Shipments Declined in March

April 18, 2013
U.S. centers’ results Canadian centers’ results

The decline in metal shipments from North American Service Centers accelerated in March, with volumes of steel and aluminum decreasing at rates that were faster than the January and February results.  The results are posted by the Metals Service Center Institute in its Monthly Activity Report, which tracks shipments and inventories from participating processors and distributors in the U.S. and Canada.

U.S. centers’ results — Shipments of steel from U.S. service centers increased 1.8% from February to March, rising from 3,367,600 tons to 3,428,100 tons. The tonnage, however, represented a decline in the daily shipment volume, from 168.4 tons/day in February to 163.2 tons/day in March.

More tellingly, the latest month’s figure represents a -9.9% change in the year-on-year result, which is clear in the year-to-date tonnage: for the current year, the three-month total for U.S. service centers’ steel shipments is -6.6% less than the January-March 2012 figure, 10,439,200 tons versus 11,182,300 tons.

Slightly more encouraging is the fact that U.S. service centers’ steel product inventories changed by -4.2%, now standing at 8,492,800 tons, versus 8,869,300 tons for March 2012. The total represents a 2.5-month inventory at the current rate of shipments.

U.S. service centers’ aluminum shipments rose in volume from February to March, increasing by 2.9% from 114,300 tons to 116,900 tons.

The new figure is a decline of -13.8%, year-on-year, falling from 135,500 tons in March 2012 to 116,900 tons last month. The daily shipping rate for aluminum fell from 6.2 tons/day in March 2012, and 5.7 tons/day in February, to 5.6 tons/day in March 2013.

The year-to-date aluminum shipments stand at 357,300 tons, falling -10.5% from 399,100 tons in March 2012.

Aluminum inventories at U.S. centers fell only slightly, in March, from 363,100 tons in February to 362,400 tons in the more recent month. The current total represents a slight decrease in inventories, from 3.2-months supply in February to 3.1-months supply at the current shipping rate.

Little Difference, North of the Border

MSCI’s monthly report cover activity by Canada’s steel and aluminum service centers,

Canadian centers’ results —Canadian service center steel shipments increased 2.0% from February to March, rising from 463,100 tons to 472,100 tons. However, the new result reveals an -18% year-on-year decline, from 575,600 tons in March 2012 to 472,200 tons in March 2013.

The daily shipment rate during March fell to 22.5 tons, from 23.2 tons/day during February. During March 2012, the daily steel shipment rate was 26.2 tons/day.

The 2013 year-to-date finds Canadian steel shipments totaling 1,457,600 tons, a decline of -13.1% from the January-March 2012 total of 1,677,900 tons.

The Canadian centers have steel inventories totaling 1,730,400 tons as of the end of March 2013, a decline of -2.3% from the February inventory total. The latest month’s figure represents a 3.7-month supply at the current shipping rate.

Finally, Canada’s aluminum service centers increased their shipments from 11,900 tons in February to 12,900 tons during March 2013, an 8.4% rise. The latter figure shows a decline of -9.9% from March 2012, when shipments total 14,300 tons.

The daily shipping rate for aluminum remained even from February to March 2013, at 600 tons, but year-to-date shipments show a marked decline: from January through March 2012, Canadian centers shipped 41,800 tons of aluminum; during the current year, the three-month total is 38,300 tons, an -8.4% year-on-year decline.

As for inventories, Canadian service centers report a current volume 37,800 tons in stock, a -1.0% decline from February 2013, when the total was 38,200 tons. The latest result is an increase of 7.1% from the March 2012 inventory total.

The new figure represents a decline in aluminum supply from, 3.2-months’ supply to 2.9-months’ supply at the current shipping rate.

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