CHICAGO Aluminum product
shipments from U.S. and Canadian service centers increased in
March compared with a month earlier while inventories edged
While market participants
generally agreed that March numbers were disappointing,
especially compared with the same month last year, their
outlook on the coming months differed. Some argued that a
seasonal uptick in activity was beginning to emerge, while
others said the usual spring rebound had thus far failed to
U.S. and Canadian service center
aluminum shipments totaled 129,800 tons in March, up 2.9
percent from 126,200 tons the previous month but down 13.4
percent from 149,800 tons a year earlier, according to Metal
Service Center Institute (MSCI) data.
"We were concerned about
business last month but have seen a rather good uptick in
April," one service center source said. "I would call it a
definite reversal in trends."
April results should be strong,
mostly because of normal seasonality, with warmer weather
bringing increased demand from the building and construction
sector in particular, he said.
Construction activity across
large swathes of the United States might have been hindered in
March by cold weather and snow, the service center source
speculated. "Last year we had a very strong February and March
but had given it all back by June," he said.
The service center source said
his companys March results were hurt by a combination of
weather and political uncertainty in the United States, chiefly
stemming from budget and health-care policies. For smaller
companies, those headwinds wont be helped by better
weather, he said.
Still, he said he was encouraged
by positive economic indicators, such as continued improvement
in the Architectural Billings Index (ABI), an advance indicator
of construction activity.
But a distributor source
questioned whether optimism about an April rebound might be
misplaced. "Ive not heard anything good from my
customers, and we had a pretty good Marchso I would be
surprised if April is better," he said.
Customers, especially service
centers, dont want to put inventory on the floor in an
environment of lower prices, the distributor source said.
"People are lowering their prices to get business and holding
off buying to see whether prices fall even further," he said,
adding that business is somewhat better among end-users.
U.S. service center shipments of
116,900 tons in March were up 2.3 percent from 114,300 tons the
previous month but down 13.7 percent from 135,500 tons in March
2012. Inventories totaled 362,400 tons at the end of March,
down 0.2 percent from 363,100 tons a month earlier and 3.1
percent from 374,100 tons in March 2012.
Canadian distributors shipped
12,900 tons of aluminum in March, up 8.4 percent from 11,900
tons in February but off 9.8 percent from 14,300 tons a year
earlier. Canadian inventories totaled 37,800 tons at the end of
March, down 1 percent from 38,200 tons in February but up 7.1
percent from 35,300 tons in March 2012, the MSCI data show.