NEW YORK Aluminum
shipments by U.S. service centers logged a double-digit
percentage rise in October compared with September, but with
many distributors remaining wary about the impending "fiscal
cliff" in Washington, most say the industry is not out of the
woods just yet.
U.S. service centers shipped a
total of 125,000 tons in October, up 11.1 percent from 112,500
tons in September but down about 2 percent compared with
128,000 tons in October 2011, according to data compiled by the
Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI). The month-over-month
increase in shipments led to a 9-percent drop in inventories in
October, with U.S. service centers holding three months
worth of material on their floors compared with 3.3
months worth in September.
Canadian service centers also
saw a slight boost, shipping 14,000 tons in October, up from
12,300 tons in both September 2012 and October 2011. Canadian
distributors held 2.8 months worth of aluminum on their
floors last month, down from 3.2 months in September,
MSCI data show.
On a tons-per-day basis,
however, U.S. shipments were down slightly, falling to 5,400
tons a day in the longer October month from 5,900 tons a day in
September in the United States.
And while total shipment levels
were up to start the fourth quarter, most service center
sources said concern is mounting going into year-end.
"I would say the mood is mildly
pessimistic," one service center source told AMM. "Now
sales arent keeping up and everyone has too much
inventory. I dont see any service centers loading up on
stock for a few months."
He said hes hopeful the
negative sentiment is simply seasonal. "Who knows? (Orders)
could spring right back in January," he said.
A second service center source
pointed to the looming fiscal cliff, saying that if certain tax
cuts implemented by former president George W. Bush arent
renewed, the manufacturing industry could be stifled next
But the first source said
hes not so bearish.
"Lets face it: It
doesnt get as gloomy as the gloomers and doomers say it
will, and nirvana doesnt go on as long as the Pollyannas
say it will. Markets go up, markets go down. There is some
pessimism now, but nevertheless, business is getting done. Look
at the numbers. Shipments are similar to where they were a year
ago," he said.
He said he has already received
a number of orders for early next year, an upbeat sign that the
world is not coming to an end.
"Were still busy with
really tiny orders, (and) we started to get a little more
orders from customers willing to go forward," he said.