U.S. service center total carbon steel shipments increased by 6.2% year on year (y/y), in April on a three month moving average (3MMA)msci-table1 basis. An encouraging trend, this was the fourth consecutive monthly increase. Bar and shapes shipments increased the most, up by 15.8% 3MMA y/y.

Table 1 shows percentage change results for shipments, daily intake and inventory level. In all cases the percentage change references 3MMA year on year (y/y). For shipments and inventory, three columns of data are listed offering 12, 24 and 36 month changes. All products groups except pipe & tube posted year on year increases. Bar & shapes recorded the strongest growth y/y, however despite the nearly 16% y/y growth, when compared to two and three years ago, shipments were still historically light. April plate shipments were up 6.9%, as sheet deliveries increased by 6.1%. Structurals y/y shipments grew by 4.8%, while pipe & tube posted a decline of 3.8% y/y.

msci-fig1Figure 1 presents total carbon shipment history as a percent of the June 2006 market peak from 2010 to present. Ignoring the seasonal lows (blue circles), after the ramp-up phase (green line), that peaked at 0.73 in March 2012, shipments were largely flat through early 2014. Another peak (0.73) was achieved in May 2014. At this inflection point, shipments fell through the end of 2016. Thus far in 2017 shipments have turned-up reaching the seven year average of 0.64 in April. In an encouraging sign, the slope of the line is stout, yet it remains to be seen if the trend will continue. Most of the recent econometric data has been positive including today’s G17 industrial production report from the Federal Reserve which showed IP jumped 1.0% in April and was up 1.2% y/y.

Daily intake was up solidly across the board y/y with the exception of pipe & tube. For all product groups, intake increased by 8.7% y/y. Bar & shapes intake ramped-up by 17.3% y/y, sheet, + 8.7%, plate +8.3% and structurals +5.3%. Pipe and tube intake was down 16.8% in April.

Overall inventory levels fell 6.9% y/y, pulled down by an 11.7% drop for pipe & tube and a 9.7% decrease for sheet. Structural inventory increased by 6.5%, plate by 1.4% and bar & shapes by 0.1%. All product groups averaged 2.16 months on hand (MOH), on a 3MMA basis, up a tick (0.04) month on month. Bar & shapes MOH was 2.28, +0.1 m/m, sheet’s MOH was 2.04, +0.03, plate’s MOH was 2.51, +0.07, pipe & tube MOH was 2.56, 3MMA, +0.11 m/m. Structurals MOH was the highest a 3.00, up 0.06 m/m.