Deliveries of steel products were one positive figure in the December Monthly Activities Report with shipments coming up short and inventories rising in both the US and Canada

Service Center Shipments Fell Flat as 2013 Ended

Jan. 28, 2014
U.S. steel shipments +0.3% year-on-year U.S. aluminum shipments, -0.7% Canadian steel shipments, -6.5% Canadan aluminum shipments, -2.5%

Shipments of steel and aluminum by North American service centers declined sharply from November to December, but for domestic metal service centers the volumes were nevertheless stronger than December 2012’s results — and brought the year to an end with a slight increase in U.S. steel deliveries.

For U.S. service centers, the results contained in the Metals Service Center Institute’s Monthly activity report were enough for the group to state that “December shipments lifted 2013 annual shipments to levels roughly equal with 2012 for both metals,” while allowing that “2013 remained slightly below 2012 in Canada.”

MSCI is a trade association for service centers and metal processors across North America. It prepares the monthly summary of steel and aluminum shipments from data reported by member companies in the U.S. and Canada, and tracks inventory levels at those locations.

Given holiday schedules, December is typically a slow month for service center deliveries, so some decline from Novemer totals may be expected.

Service centers in the United States shipped 2.95 million tons of steel products during December, down 0.4% from the November volume, but 16.5% higher than the December 2012 total. These centers achieved an average shipping rate of 140.4 tons/day, 8.5% less than the November rate of 154.4 tons/day.

Even so, the total brought the full-year steel shipments total for U.S. service centers to 41.4 million tons, 0.5% higher than the steel delivery totals for 2012.

As for inventories, the U.S. centers reported reserves totaling 8.4 million tons, up 5% from November but down 2.1% versus December 2012. At the current rate of deliveries, the new inventory total indicates U.S. service centers have a 2.8-month supply of steel in stock.

In Canada, service centers’ December steel shipments totaled 348, 700 tons, down 26.3% from November but up 3.0% from December 2012. The rate of deliveries slipped from 23.7 in November to 5.0 tons/day in December.

Total steel deliveries by Canadian steel service during 2013 slipped 6.5% from the 2012 total, ending at 1.48 million tons. The centers had 1.36 million tons of steel in inventory as the December ended, 8.6% more than in November and 25.5% less than in December 2012. At their current shipping rate, Canadian service centers’ inventories equal a 3.9-month supply of steel in stock.

Aluminum, ... Different Story

In the aluminum market, U.S. service centers shipped 104,200 tons during December, 9.3% less than during November, but 13.3% more than during December 2012. The daily shipping rate slipped 12.3% from November, to 5,000 tons, however the annual total of aluminum shipments slipped 0.7% from 2012.

U.S. service centers were holding 377,800 tons of aluminum in inventories as December closed, up 0.9% from November’s total, and up 3.3% from the year-earlier inventory volume. At their current shipment rate, the U.S. centers are carrying 3.6-months of aluminum in stock. 

Aluminum shipments by Canadian service centers fell 31.3% from November to December, settling at 8,800 tons, which was 3.5% higher than the December 2012 total. The rate of delivery slipped from 0.6 to 0.4 tons/day in the latest month, but the year ended with a total of 153,100 tons shipped, 2.5% less than the total shipped for 2012.

Aluminum inventories at Canadian centers were 36,400 tons as the month (and year) ended, down 4.9% from November and down 6.2% from December 2012’s inventory total. at the current rate of deliveries, Canada’s service centers have a 4.1-month supply of aluminum products.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)

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