Metals Service Center Shipments Fall in October

Nov. 17, 2010
Declines for steel, aluminum, but annual pace still strong

Shipments of steel and aluminum from North America’s metals service center declined from September to October, though the tonnages continue to hold up against the dramatic low rates of 2009. U.S. and Canadian centers’ deliveries of steel dropped more than 4%, and Canadian centers’ aluminum shipments were in a similar range, while U.S. centers’ aluminum shipments were down less than 2% for the month.

The results are reported by the Metals Service Center Institute in its monthly Metals Activity Report, based on actual shipping and inventory figures reported by North American service centers. MSCI emphasized that inventory-to-sales ratios remained stable for both metal products, in each country.

U.S. service centers’ October steel product shipments amounted to 3.03 million tons, or down 4.4% from the 3.17 million tons of steel shipped during September, and the second consecutive month of decline in that product category. However, the October total represents an increase of 15.8% over October 2009 shipments (2.61 million tons), and brings the total volume of U.S. steel service center shipments for 2010 to 29.9 million tons, 19.4% more than were shipped during the first 10 months of 2009.

As October ended, U.S. service centers reported steel inventories totaling 7.42 million tons, 25.1% more than were held in stock in October 2009. At current shipping rates, the tonnage is equal to a 2.4-month supply.

Canadian service centers’ October steel shipments totaled 481,600 tons, 4.74% less than the 505,600 tons that were shipped in September but 11.6% more than the 431,400 tons shipped in October 2009. Shipments for the first 10 months of the year now total 4.77 million tons, 14.7% better than were shipped in the January-October 2009 period. The month ended with Canadian service centers holding 1.33 tons of steel in inventory, 37.2% more than they reported at the end of October 2009 and equal to a 2.8-month supply at current shipping rates.

As for aluminum, U.S. service centers shipped 116,100 tons of the light metal in October, down 1.9% from September’s total of 118,400 tons, and the second consecutive month of declining shipments. Still, the current total is a 25.5% improvement over the October 2009 volume (92,500 tons) and bring the 10-month volume for 2010 to 1.09 million tons, which is a 24.6% improvement over January-October 2009.

U.S. centers’ aluminum inventories were reported to be 337,000 tons as October ended, 30.6% more than were in stock one year ago, and equal to a 2.9% supply at current shipping rates. That inventory volume is the highest that U.S. centers have held since February 2010, the MSCI notes.

Canadian service centers shipped 11,700 tons of aluminum products during October, a drop-off 4.1% from the 12,200 tons shipped during September. However, the current figure is a 6.1% improvement over the October 2009 shipment total (11,000), and brings the year-to-date total shipments to 113,600 tons, up 6.0% against January-October 2009.

Aluminum inventories at Canadian centers were reported at 31,900 tons, 19.9% above the inventories at the close of October 2009, and equal to a 2.7-month supply at current shipping rates.

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