CHICAGO U.S. service center shipments trended upward in November vs. the same month last year, marking the third month in a row of year-over-year gains.
The market heading into 2014 is probably stronger than it was at the end of 2012, according to market sources, although some sources said the current outlook, while far from pessimistic, is far less bullish than expectations were going into 2013.
"There is business to be done and some good opportunities out there. Its just not the constant order flow that we would hope for," one source said. "But whatever our problems or headaches are now, its not as bad or desperate as it was last year."
Opportunities arise due to improved demand across the board and low inventories at end-users and other service centers, the service center source said. "People just dont have metal on the floor, so any incremental business that has not been planned for becomes a rush order. And thats true not just for our customers, but also for our competitors." That means business activity is being driven not only by end-user demand but also by service centers buying and selling among themselves, he said.
U.S. service centers aluminum shipments totaled 114,900 tons (5,700 tons per day) last month, up 5.3 percent from 109,100 tons (5,200 tons per day) in November last year, according to the latest Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) data. Despite the gain, year-to-date shipments of more than 1.37 million tons were down 1.6 percent from nearly 1.4 million tons in the first 11 months of 2012.
Inventories totaled 374,300 tons (3.3 months supply at current shipping rates) at the end of November, up 1.5 percent from 368,900 tons (2.7 months supply) a month earlier and 2.4 percent higher than 365,300 tons (3.3 months supply) a year ago.
Canadian service centers shipped 12,800 tons (600,000 tons per day) of aluminum in November, according to the MSCI, down 2.3 percent from 13,100 tons in the same month last year. Year-to-date shipments of 144,300 tons were off 2.9 percent from 148,500 tons in the first 11 months of 2012.
Canadian inventories totaled 34,700 tons (2.7 months supply) at the end of November, up 0.6 percent from 34,500 tons (2.5 months supply) a month earlier but down 11.7 percent from 39,300 tons (3.0 months supply) in the same month last year.