Service centers’ shipments represent a substantial volume of the metals consumed by machine shops, fabricators, and other manufacturers.

Service Center Metals Shipments Weaken in September

Oct. 19, 2017
U.S. centers steel and aluminum shipments down by double digits from August; Canada centers report declines too

North American metals service center shipments of steel and aluminum products declined from August to September, though the year-over-year comparisons were effectively flat, as the Metals Service Center Institute noted in its statement on the results. U.S. centers’ inventories of steel and aluminum increased during September, though Canadian centers stockpiles declined in somewhat comparable rates.

Each month the Metals Service Center Institute issues its Metals Activity Report, which presents shipment and inventory totals for service centers in the U.S. and Canada. Both indexes offer insight to the current state of manufacturing activity, as service center metal products constitute to a substantial volume of the metals consumed by machine shops, fabricators, and other manufacturers.

U.S. service centers shipped 3.04 million tons of steel products during September 2017, 12.2% less than during August but "essentially unchanged from September 2016," as MSCI noted. The daily shipping rate improved by 2,200 tons from the August rate to an average of 152,200 tons/day, and the year-to-date total increased to 29.56 million tons through nine months, 2.8% higher than the January-September 2016 total.

Steel product inventories at U.S. service centers increased by 1.2% from August, and by 2.4% from September 2016. At their current shipping rate, MSCI estimated that U.S. service centers are holding a 2.6-month supply of steel products.

Steel products shipments from Canadian service centers decreased by 7.8% from August to September, totaling 356,600 tons for the most recent month. That represents a 3.8% decline from the September 2016 shipment total. However, the daily shipping rate increased by about 200 tons, to 17,800 tons/day.  

Canadian centers nine-month steel shipments total is 3.46 million tons, 2.7% higher than the nine-month total for 2016.

Canadian services centers steel product inventories declined slightly (-1.65%) from August, but at 1.16 million tons are 4.2% higher than the inventory total at the end of September 2016, equivalent to a 3.3-month total by the MSCI estimate.

Aluminum products shipments by U.S. service centers totaled 131,200 tons during September, down 14.2% from August and down 3.5% from September 2016. The daily shipping rate remained unchanged from August, at 6,600 tons/day, and the year-to-date total for aluminum products shipments increased to 1.24 million tons, 6.9% higher than the January-September 2016 shipments.

U.S. centers’ aluminum inventories rose to 401,900 tons at the close of September, 1.1% higher than the August inventory level and 2.3% higher than the September 2016 level. The current total is reckoned to be a 3.1-month supply at the current shipping rate.

Canadian service center shipped 10,300 tons of aluminum products during September, 2.8% less than during August and 5.5% less than during September 2016. Notably, the daily shipping rate for September remained unchanged at 500 ton/day, a level it apparently has maintained for nine consecutive months. The year-to-date total for Canadian centers’ aluminum products shipments is 93,100 tons, less than 1% higher than the January-September 2016 total.

Inventories of aluminum products at Canadian service centers fell 1.9% from August to 30,500 tons currently, a slight increase (0.6%) from September 2016. The current inventory total is estimated to be a 3.0-month supply.

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