Transportation, aerospace help aluminum keep pace

Oct 31, 2012 | 07:00 PM | Myra Pinkham

Tags  aluminum, north american aluminum market, Keith Harvey, Kaiser Aluminum Corp., Gordon Hamilton, Rio Tinto Alcan, Bill Sales, Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. Lloyd O’Carroll

While the overall North American aluminum market is strong, with a lot of potential for future growth, it remains a tale of two industries, with demand by construction and other non-transportation sectors much more lackluster than automotive and aerospace.

“We knew that it would be a long, slow, sluggish recovery coming out of the recession compared with most other recoveries, and that has definitely been the case,” said Keith Harvey, senior vice president of sales and marketing for aerospace and general engineering at Kaiser Aluminum Corp., Foothill Ranch, Calif.

Nevertheless, North America is clearly one of the brighter spots globally, according to Gordon Hamilton, vice president of primary metals sales and marketing for Rio Tinto Alcan, Montreal. “Overall, North America has been among the most resilient markets, seeing a big bounce back in 2010 and remaining fairly steady ever since,” he said, having not suffered the contagion from the European debt crisis that Asia has been experiencing.

On a volume basis, there has been fairly significant improvement, said Bill Sales, senior vice president for nonferrous operations at Los Angeles-based Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co., but how significant that improvement is depends on the market that a particular company targets.

Lloyd O’Carroll, senior vice president of research at Richmond, Va.-based Davenport & Co. LLC, agreed. While there are still some soft areas and overall growth has slowed somewhat compared with earlier in the year, he expects overall domestic aluminum shipments will be up about 8 percent this year, with another 4-percent increase in 2013. ....

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