Shipments of steel and aluminum declined across North America, during February, continuing a weak start to 2013 for metals service centers. Even so, the Metals Service Center Institute noted one positive indicator: inventories of both metals remained at low levels in the U.S.

MSCI compiles the Monthly Activity Report to track shipments and inventories among its members in the U.S. and Canada.

U.S. service centers shipped nearly 3.36 million tons of steel products during February, a drop of -7.6% from January’s shipment total of 3.64 million tons, and a drop of 7.9% from February 2012’s total, 3.65 million tons.

For the first two months of this year, U.S. centers’ steel shipments amount to 7.01 million tons, a -5% decline versus the January-February 2012 total.

As for inventories, U.S. service centers reportedly have 8.5 million tons of steel products on hand as of the end of February 2013, a -2.6% decrease from last month’s inventory level, and a -4.6% decrease compared to the February 2012 inventory report.

At their current shipping rate, U.S. service centers have a 2.5-months supply of steel in inventory. That represents a 3.5% rise over the 2012 inventory level at the comparable date, according to MSCI’s estimation.

In Canada, service centers shipped 463,100 tons of steel products during February, which was a decline of -11.3% from the January total, 522,300 tons. It also represents a -14.5% decrease from February 2012’s result, 541,500 tons, and brings the year-to-date steel shipments total to 985,400 tons. That indicates a -10.6% decrease for Canadian service centers from the two-month steel shipment total for 2012.

As February ended, Canada’s centers’ steel product inventories totaled 1.77 million tons, indicating a decrease of -0.2% from January but an increase of 2.4% from the February 2012 inventory volume.

At the current rate of shipments Canadian service centers have an estimated 3.8-month supply of steel available, an increase of 19.7% from February 2012.