CHICAGO The U.S. primary metals industry logged both
industrial production index and capacity utilization gains in
December, rising by 2.8 points and 2.1 points, respectively,
from November, according to data from the Federal Reserve
Activity levels among regional steel, scrap, metallurgical coal
and iron ore producers were mixed last month, the Fed said Jan.
16 in its Current Economic Conditions report.
Metal fabricators had a capacity utilization rate of 83.4
percent in December, down slightly from 83.6 percent a month
earlier, while the production index was unchanged at
The mining industry saw capacity utilization and the production
index rise to the highest levels of the year, to 91.9 percent
and 116.3, respectively.
In the Cleveland banking district, steel producers and service
centers described shipping volumes as lower relative to levels
seen in the third quarter. Raw materials prices were either
flat or trended lower than in the prior survey.
In the Chicago district, steel mill capacity utilization
increased slightly and service center inventories were said to
be at desirable levels. Specialty metals manufacturers reported
a decline in quoting and new orders as customers continued to
delay purchases until the last minute.
Scrap exports were strong, survey respondents at U.S. ports
told the Fed. In the San Francisco banking district, demand for
scrap metals remained somewhat weak by historical standards.
However, that for steel products used in automotive
manufacturing and in infrastructure and nonresidential
Demand for metallurgical coal held steady in the United States
last month, while that from offshore customers declined,
particularly those in Europe. Falling prices for metallurgical
coal have leveled off, according to the survey.
Iron ore production remained strong in northern Minnesota, but
activity in recent months was down from levels seen earlier in
2012. A large mining company announced it will idle some of its
production at operations in Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula
in 2013, citing lower ore prices and reduced global
A separate mining company increased its estimate of deposits at
a potential copper, nickel and precious metals mine in northern
Minnesota, sources told the Fed.