Metals finish flat in 2012

Shipments of steel and aluminum products failed to capitalize on early gains in 2012, finishing the year flat to slightly up

Despite early gains in 2012, metals shipments finished the year on a flat note, rising only slightly in some categories and falling in others. January’s end-of-year activity report from the Metals Service Center Institute showed that 2012 shipments were about even with 2011 and that inventory-to-sales ratios deteriorated across the board.

In the United States, service centers shipped more than 2.5 million tons of steel products in December, a 14% decrease compared to December 2011. For the year, steel shipments rose slightly more than 1% to 41.2 million tons. Steel inventories in the U.S. rose more than 2% in December, representing roughly 3.4 months of supply in inventory—a nearly 20% increase compared to a year ago.

Aluminum products fared worse, as U.S. service centers saw a 16% decline in December shipments compared to the same period in 2011. For the full year, aluminum shipments fell slightly, 0.9%. December inventories of aluminum products rose 2%, representing roughly four months of supply in inventory—a 22% increase compared to a year ago.

In Canada, steel service center activity fell 19% in December and 3% for the year. Inventories grew nearly 22% compared to the same period in 2011, representing about 5.4 months’ supply, a 51% increase compared to a year ago.

Although Canadian shipments of aluminum fell 12% in December, they finished the year up 7%. Inventories rose 13% for the month and stood at about 4.5 months of supply, a nearly 30% increase compared to this time last year.

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