July Metal Service Center Shipments Slowed

Steel, aluminum still ahead of year-ago pace, as inventories start to climb

North America’s service centers’ shipments of steel and aluminum slowed in July, and inventory levels rose for both metals, according to data released by the Metals Service Center Institute. The monthly and year-to-date volume of shipments remains ahead of 2009’s poor showing, but the comparative increase against year-ago levels continues to narrow from the situation that prevailed early in 2010.

U.S. service centers’ July steel shipments amounted to 2.87 million tons, compared to 3.22 million tons shipped in June, a decline in growth of 10.8%. the July figure remains 14.5% better than the July 2009 rate, however, the July figure follows year-on-year growth of 30.8% in June and 29.4% in May.

U.S. centers steel shipments for the first seven months of 2010 totaled nearly 20.5 million tons, or 18.4% better than January-July 2009.

Steel inventories at U.S. services centers totaled 7.46 million tons at the end of July, 30.2% higher than for July 2009. At current shipping rates, MSCI estimates that the total steel inventory equals a 2.6-month supply, up from a 2.3-month supply at the end of June and a 2.4-month supply at the end of May.

In Canada, service centers’ steel shipments totaled 421,900 tons, down 17.8% from the 513,300 tons shipped in June, but 28.6% better than 5.9% better than the June 2009 rate. June had shown a 28.6% improvement over June 2009, and May had been 23.3% better than May 2009.

Canadian steel shipments for January-July totaled roughly 3.3 million tons, 15.2% higher than the seven-month total for 2009.

Steel inventories for Canadian service center totaled 1.3 million tons, 29.7% more than was held in stock at the end of July 2009. MSCI estimates that at current shipping rates the Canadian centers have a 3.1-month supply of steel on hand. At the end of June, their inventories indicated a 2.6- month supply, and at the end of May a 3.0-month supply was in stock.

As for aluminum products, U.S. service centers shipped 118,000 tons in July, a 4.4% drop from June’s 123,500 tons shipped. The July figure was 31.6% above the July 2009 shipments. The 12-month rate of improvement was 37.7% for June.

For the first seven months of 2010, U.S. aluminum shipments totaled 733,800 tons, a 19.5% increase above the January-June 2009 period.

Service centers’ aluminum inventories were reported to be 317,900 tons at the end of July, 19.3% higher than at the end of July 2009, and equal to a 2.7-month supply at current shipping rates. MSCI had estimated the June U.S. aluminum inventory total to be 2.5-month supply.

Canadian service centers’ aluminum shipments amount to 9,900 tons in July, a decline of 21.4% versus the June shipment total of 12,600 tons. The July shipments were an improvement of 1.3% above June 2009. The year-on-year shipment increase had been 12.2% in June and 11.6% in May.

From January through July, Canadian service centers have shipped 78,500 tons of aluminum, 4.8% more than in the comparable period of 2009.

Canadian aluminum inventories at the end of July are estimated at 32,000 tons, or 4.7% more than were held in stock at the end of July 2009. At current shipping rates that equals a 3.2- month supply, compared with a 2.4-month supply at the end of June.

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