Service centers steel shipments fell 5.4% from January to February in the U.S., and 4.9% over the same period for Canadian service centers.

Service Center Shipments Still Sluggish in February

March 18, 2015
Little apparent demand for steel, aluminum, as deliveries for the month are flat, inventories mostly unchanged. Daily delivery rates flat Steel shipments down, YTD Aluminum shipments up slightly, YTD

Shipments of steel and aluminum by North America’s service centers maintained a lackluster pace from January into February, though the year-over-year data indicated a slightly more positive situation for aluminum than for steel. Inventories of steel remained fairly even from the January totals, but the levels rose more notably for aluminum.

The information is drawn from the Metals Service Center Institute’s Metals Activity Report for February, which tracks steel and aluminum shipments and inventories for service centers in the U.S. and Canada, measuring absolute tonnages as well as daily shipping rates and inventory volumes.

In general, conditions appear slightly better for U.S. than for Canadian operations, and slightly better for aluminum than for steel, but in fact there is little evidence of strength in demand for service centers’ products.

U.S. service centers shipped 3.33 million tons of steel products during February, 5.4% less than during January, and 1.4% less than during February 2014. The average daily shipment rate was down less than 1.0% from January, and the year-to-date shipment total is down 2.5% from the two-month total for 2014.

U.S. service centers managed to decrease steel inventories from the previous month, -0.8%, though the current volume is 15.1% higher than the February 2014 inventory total. MSCI estimated that U.S. service centers are carrying a 3.0-month supply of steel at their current delivery rates.

In February, Canadian service centers 423,300 tons of steel products, a decrease of 4.9% from January’s shipments, and a decrease of 5.6% from February 2014 shipments. The average daily shipment rate for February was unchanged from January, and the year-to-date shipment total fell 8.0% behind the comparable figure for February 2014

Canadian centers’ steel product inventories rose just 0.1% during February, but increased 21.0% from the February 2014 total.  At the current rate of deliveries, Canada’s service centers are estimated to be holding a 4.0-month supply of steel.

U.S. service centers’ shipments of aluminum products declined to 128,500 tons during February, down 1.4% from January, but up 3.7% from the February 2014 total.  The daily shipment rate increased slightly (0.2 tons/day) from January to an average of 6.4 tons/day during February, pushing the year-to-date aluminum shipment total to 258,800 tons, up 0.4% from the January-February 2014 total.

Aluminum inventories at U.S. service centers rose 4.7% from January to 409,600 tons, up 9.0% from the February 2014 inventory total. By the MSCI estimate, U.S. centers’ aluminum inventories are the equivalent of a 3.2-month supply.

Canadian service centers shipped 125,000 tons of aluminum products during February, down 6.0% from the January total but up 4.3% from the February 2014 total. The daily shipment rate remained unchanged from January at 600/tons/day, and the year-to-date total rose to 25,800 tons, up 0.4% from the January-February 2014 report.

Canadian service centers’ aluminum inventories rose by 5,000 tons from January to February, though the current total is 9.7% less than the February 2014 report. At the current delivery rate, Canadian centers are estimated to be holding a 3.5-month supply.

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