NEW YORK Distributor shipments of stainless products in the United States fell to 143,000 tons in February, down 7.3 percent from 154,300 tons in the year-ago period, according to Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) data.
As shipments fell, U.S. service center inventories rose to 435,700 tons this February, equivalent to 3 months supply at current shipping levels. The figure was up 5.4 percent from 413,400 tons, or 2.7 months supply, in February 2012 and up 2.1 percent from January 2013 inventories of 426,800 tons, also equivalent to 2.7 months supply.
Stainless steel demand has yet to recover from a lull which began toward the end of 2012, distributors told AMM.
"Its tepid right now; demand is not real strong," one distributor said. "Lead times are very short right now."
"I cant see this being a very strong spring," a second distributor added.
Nickel prices also dropped significantly in February, with the London Metal Exchanges cash nickel contract peaking at $18,600 per tonne ($8.44 per pound) Feb. 4 before dropping to $16,525 per tonne ($7.50 per pound) Feb. 26.