LONDON Aluminum shipments
by U.S. service centers fell nearly 13 percent in November from
the prior month, and sources say they expect the trend to
continue through year-end as December volumes continue to
U.S. service centers shipped
109,100 tons of aluminum products in November, down from
125,000 tons in October and a nearly 10-percent drop from
120,800 tons shipped in November 2011, according to Metals
Service Center Institute (MSCI) data.
On a tons-per-day basis,
aluminum shipments fell 3.7 percent to 5,200 tons per day in
November from 5,400 tons in October and dropped 13.3 percent
year on year.
As a result of declining
shipments, distributors inventories rose, with service
centers holding 3.3 months supply of aluminum on their
floors last month, up from 3 months worth in October and
on par with stocks held at the same point last year.
Canadian service centers also
saw a decline in activity, shipping 13,100 tons in November
from 14,000 tons a month earlier, and held 3 months worth
of aluminum on their floors, up from 2.8 months worth in
"These numbers suck. Nobody is
buying anything (and) inventories are higher," one service
center source told AMM. "And were having our
worst month in December. We expected it to be a little slower,
but were way behind even last December. I think everyone
is in a hunker-down mood for year-end."
A second service center source
agreed that last month was slower than expected, a trend that
has only continued as December takes hold.
"November was a little lower on
a daily rate basis (and) lighter overall than October. And
activity levels are slow this week. I dont expect the
rest of the month to set any records," he added.
Sources agreed that seasonality
is one factor behind the slowdown, but the U.S. election might
have also dampened shipments last month.
"November was the election, so
there may have been more tentative steps taken (by consumers).
Its a holiday month as well," the second service center
But while there is industrywide
caution as 2012 wraps up, service centers anticipate most
end-markets should experience a bump in demand going into the
"The majority of our customers
are cautiously optimistic, with some sporadic political
grumblings," a third distributor said, adding that he is
getting several orders for January delivery now, primarily from
consumers in the home construction, aerospace and marine end
"I think after the fiscal cliff
and all of that nonsense, by the end of January and February
everyone will see that the world is still here and the world is
still using metal," the first distributor source said.
"Of course everyone is still
waiting for this political action. I think were getting
pretty close," the second service center added.