Shipments Rise for Canadian Service Centers, Drop Off in U.S.

Only small changes in aluminum and steel shipment totals, rates, and inventories

Metal service centers’ September shipments demonstrate some general uncertainty in North American manufacturing and construction markets, with only small changes in the steel and aluminum volumes shipped from August to September. The data is reported by the Metals Service Center Institute’s monthly Metals Activity Report, and is based on data collected from processors and distributors in the United States and Canada.

In both countries, for both metals, service centers’ shipments are well ahead of their 2009 pace. And, in each case service centers are holding inventories approximating 2.5 months of supply at current shipping rates.

However, the September shipping data indicates a difference in activity between the U.S., where both steel and aluminum shipments declined for the month; and Canada, where shipments of both metals increased from August to September.

U.S. service centers shipped 3.17 million tons of steel in September steel, a decline of less than one percent (0.93%) from the August shipment total (3.2 million tons), and another data point for the up-and-down pattern that has marked the domestic steel service center market in 2010. The September figure, however, is a 23.9% improvement over the September 2009 shipment result (2.6 million tons), and it brings the sector’s year-to-date total to 26.8 million tons, 19.8% higher than the January-September 2009 total.

MSCI indicates that the U.S. service centers have 7.53 million tons of steel inventory as of September 30, 30% above inventories at the comparable date of 2009, and equal to a 2.4-month supply at current shipping rates.

Canadian service centers shipped 505,600 tons of steel in September, an improvement of 3.3 percent from the August total (489,600 tons.) The figure is also an increase of 11.1% from September 2009 (455,100 tons).

For the first nine months of 2010, Canadian service centers have shipped 4.29 million tons, 15.0% higher than during January-September 2009. As the month ended, Canadian steel inventories were reported to be 1.32 million tons, 37.4% higher than the volume in inventory at the end of September 2009. At the current shipping rates, Canadian centers have a 2.6-month supply of steel in stock.

As for aluminum, U.S. service centers shipped 118,400 tons in September, a drop of 6.5% from their August shipments (126,000 tons), but 36.9% more than was shipped in September 2009 (86,400 tons.)

From January through September, U.S. service centers have shipped 978,800 tons of aluminum, 24.4% more than were shipped in the comparable period of 2009. Current inventories of aluminum are reported to be 327,800 tons, 28.7% more than were held in stock at the end of September 2009, and equal to a 2.8-month supply at current shipping rates.

Canada’s service centers shipped 12,200 tons of aluminum during September, 7.9% more than was shipped in August (11,100 tons) and 9.5% more than a year ago. For the first nine months of the year, Canadian aluminum shipments have totaled 102,000 tons, or 6.0% more than was shipped over the comparable period of 2009. As September ended, Canada’s centers had aluminum inventories 31,400 tons, 9.2% more than at the same point last year, and equal to a 2.6-month supply at current shipping rates.

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