Distributors keep stocks lean as shipments fall

Nov 16, 2010 | 02:13 PM |

New mill price hikes on hot-rolled coil won't mean much if distributors, which take more than one-third of all steel produced in North America, aren't buying, steel service center sources told AMM Tuesday.

Steel shipments by U.S. and Canadian distributors totaled 3.51 million tons last month, down 4.5 percent from 3.67 million tons in September, according to the Metals Service Center Institute's latest metals activity report.

Despite lower shipments, U.S. steel inventories dipped 1.5 percent to 7.42 million tons from 7.53 million tons in September, although Canadian steel inventories inched up 1.3 percent to more than 1.33 million tons from less than 1.32 million tons in the same comparison.

The vice president of a Chicago-area flat-rolled distributor said he thought the MSCI inventory numbers were skewed by the big chain warehouses, and that mid-size and small service centers had shrunk stocks down to a mere three to six weeks.....

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