NEW YORK Steel pipe and tube distributors shipping activity picked up in September compared with a year earlier, but margins remain "lean," one Midwest distributor said.
"September compared to last (year) ... was improved pretty much across all products," he said. "It was up in tons, but not up in dollars."
U.S. carbon pipe and tubing shipments totaled 222,100 tons in September, up 7.2 percent from 207,100 tons in the same month last year, according to the latest Metal Service Center Institute (MSCI) data. However, the tally fell 8.2 percent vs. August.
Inventories fell to 3.2 months supply from 3.5 months a year earlier, but rose from 2.9 months supply in August.
Distributor sources said last month that competition remained fierce (amm.com, Sept. 18).
Looking ahead, a hollow structural sections mill source said a recent price increase (amm.com, Oct. 7) had spurred a pickup so far in October.
"The increase has generated some activity, I would say," he said, adding that flat-rolled producers thus far are sticking to recent increases (amm.com, Oct. 1).
In Canada, September shipments remained tepid at 53,000 tons, unchanged from September 2012 but up from 51,700 tons in August. Inventory levels fell to 2.4 months supply from 2.6 months a year earlier and 2.5 months in August.
Through September, U.S. shipments dropped 2.2 percent to 2.09 million tons, while Canadian deliveries tumbled 9.9 percent to 481,200 tons.