Service centers across North America increased delivery volumes during March, and in most instances managed to reduce their inventory levels, too. The Metals Service Center Institute, which reports the shipment and inventory results in its Monthly Activity Report, stated that “shipment growth returned to healthy levels for steel and aluminum in both the United States and Canada.”

The increases represent a notable reversal of the mostly lackluster results for service centers during January and February.

MSCI is a trade association for service centers and metal processors across North America. It prepares the monthly summary of steel and aluminum shipments from data reported by member companies in the U.S. and Canada, and tracks inventory levels at those locations.

Shipments of steel by U.S. service centers rose 8.7% from February to March, up to 3.68 million metric tons, the equivalent of 175,000 tons/day. The total is 7.2% higher than the March 2013 shipment total, and it brings the 2014 cumulative shipments total to 10.7 million metric tons, or 2.5% higher than the comparable January-March 2013 total.

Steel inventories at U.S. centers declined 2.7% during March, to a reported 8.3 million metric tons. At the current shipping rate, the MSCI estimated that total to be equal to 2.2 months of supply.

Canada’s service centers shipped 499,700 tons of steel during March, 11.4% more than during February, and 5.8% more than during March 2013. The new figure represents a daily delivery rate of 23.8 tons, and it brings the three-month total for 2014 to 1.44 million tons, a 1% decline versus 2013.

The latest inventory figures indicate Canadian centers increased their aluminum stockpiles during March, a 5.5% rise that means in inventory that now represents a 2.9-month inventory at the current shipping rate.

Deliveries of aluminum from U.S. service centers increased 8.7% from February to March, rising to 135,300 tons, the equivalent of 6,400 tons/day for the month. This new total is 15.8% higher than the March 2013 shipment total, and increases  the January-March 2014 total to 394,100 tons, 10.3% more than the delivery total for the same period of 2013.

According to the Metal Service Center Institute, aluminum inventories at U.S. service centers rose slightly during March, to 379,100 tons, the equivalent of 2.8 months’ supply at the current rate of deliveries.

Aluminum deliveries by the Canadian centers rose 14.2% from February to March, to 13,700 tons, which is 6.6% higher than the March 2013 total and equal to 700 tons/day. The latest figure raises the year-to-date total for Canadian service center aluminum shipments to 39,400 tons.

Those centers aluminum inventories decreased slightly to 38,300 tons, or an estimated 2.8-month supply.