Metal Service Centers Still Cutting Inventory

Sept. 17, 2009
August steel, aluminum shipments increase over July; year-to-date totals are well off 2008 pace

August shipments of steel and aluminum from North America’s metals service centers increased slightly from July levels, according to the Metals Service Center Institute. However, the centers continued their pattern of selling from inventory, which has been underway for over a year. In both the U.S. and Canada, MSCI noted, steel service centers have reduced inventory levels to about two-month’s supply, based on current sales levels.

The MSCI’s Metals Activity Report is based on data reported by U.S. and Canadian metals service centers.

U.S. service centers’ August steel shipments amounted to nearly 2.55 million tons, slightly up over July’s 2.5 million tons shipped, but down -34.7% from August 2008. Year-to-date, U.S. service center steel shipments total 19.8 million tons, -42.3% below January-August 2008.

As of August 31, U.S. service centers report total inventories of 5.62 million tons, -49% versus the August 2008 level. MSCI notes that this figure represents a record low level for this data series. At current shipping rates, U.S. service centers’ steel inventories represent a 2.2month supply.

As for aluminum, U.S. service centers shipped 85,800 tons during August, a -38.8% decline from August 2008. Year-to-date U.S. aluminum shipments total 700,100 tons, -42.2% less than January-to-August 2008.

As August ended, U.S. centers reported aluminum inventories of 261,200 tons, -42.4% less than the August 2008 inventory level. At their current shipping rates, U.S. centers have a 3.0month supply of aluminum.

In Canada, service centers shipped 415,500 tons of steel in August, an increase from July’s 398,500 tons shipped, but -18.8% less than the volume shipped in August 2008.

For the first eight months 2009, Canadian service centers shipped 3.3 million tons of steel, -32.1% less than were shipped from January to August 2009.

Canadian centers reported steel inventories of 955,600 tons as August ended, -42.6% less than August 2008 inventory levels. Their inventories represent a 2.3-month supply at current shipping rates.

The Canadian service centers shipped 10,200 tons of aluminum during August, a slight rise over the July shipment levels but down -23.7% from August 2008. From January through August, Canadian centers’ aluminum shipments amount to 85,000 tons, -25.5% versus the first eight months of 2008.

At the end of August, Canadian centers had 29,400 tons of aluminum in inventory, down from July and -20.3% less than the August 2008 inventory total. At their current shipping rate, Canadian centers have a 2.9month supply of aluminum.

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