North American service centers’ steel and aluminum shipments picked up markedly in March, following a lackluster performance in February, which included low delivery levels and generally flat inventory levels. By contrast, delivery rates for both metals increased by double digits and inventories declined in all but one case. Even so, the Metals Service Center Institute was low-key in its evaluation of the data, noting the less-impressive year-to-date comparisons.
Steel and aluminum shipment and inventories are reported by MSCI in its Metals Activity Report, a monthly recap of service centers’ activities in the U.S. and Canada. The Report records absolute tonnages as well as daily shipping rates and inventory volumes.
U.S. service centers shipped 3.67 million tons of steel products during March, 10.2% more than during February but 0.1% less than during March 2014. Those operations also achieved a slight increase in the daily shipping rate, 167.0 tons/day, and pushed the year-to-date delivery totals to 10,528.8 million tons, down 1.6% from the three-month total for 2014.
Steel inventories at U.S. service centers stood at 9.56 million tons as March ended, down 3.2% from February and yet 15.6% higher than February 2014 inventory levels. At the current shipping rate, MSCI estimated that U.S. service centers are carrying a 2.6-month supply of steel products.
Canada’s service centers shipped 481,400 tons of steel during March, 13.7% more than during February but 3.7% less than during March 2014. The centers’ daily shipping rate rose to 21.9 tons/day, and the three-month delivery total rose to 1.35 million tons, 6.5% less than during January-March 2014.
The steel inventories at Canada’s service centers rose 8.0% to 1.8 million tons, 24.0% higher than the March 2014 inventory level. MSCI estimated the Canadian service centers have a 3.8-months’ supply of steel at their current shipping rate.
Aluminum shipments rose to 140,900 tons for U.S. service centers during March, up 9.6% from February and up 4.6% from March 2014. The daily shipping rate stayed even with February, however, at 6.4 tons/day. The three-months’ shipment total for aluminum is now 399,700 tons, a 1.8% improvement over the comparable 2014 period.
U.S. service centers’ aluminum inventories declined 3.5% from February, but rose 4.9% over the March 2014 level. At their current delivery rate, the U.S. centers are estimated to have 2.8-months’ worth of aluminum in stock.
Finally, in Canada service centers shipped 14,300 tons of aluminum during March, which is 14.4% more than during February and 4.5% more than the March 2014 shipment total. The March daily shipment rate was 700 tons, and the year-to-date volume of aluminum rose to 40.1 tons, 1.8% more than January-March 2014 shipments.
Canadian service centers’ inventories of aluminum products decreased 6.7% from February, and increased 12.5% from March 2014. At 43,000 tons, those inventories now represent a 3.0-month supply of aluminum.