The decline in metal shipments from North American service centers accelerated in March, with volumes of steel and aluminum decreasing at rates that were faster than the January and February results.  The results are posted by the Metals Service Center Institute in its Monthly Activity Report, which tracks shipments and inventories from participating processors and distributors in the U.S. and Canada.

U.S. centers’ results — Shipments of steel from U.S. service centers increased 1.8% from February to March, rising from 3,367,600 tons to 3,428,100 tons. The tonnage, however, represented a decline in the daily shipment volume, from 168.4 tons/day in February to 163.2 tons/day in March.

More tellingly, the latest month’s figure represents a -9.9% change in the year-on-year result, which is clear in the year-to-date tonnage: for the current year, the three-month total for U.S. service centers’ steel shipments is -6.6% less than the January-March 2012 figure, 10,439,200 tons versus 11,182,300 tons.

Slightly more encouraging is the fact that U.S. service centers’ steel product inventories changed by -4.2%, now standing at 8,492,800 tons, versus 8,869,300 tons for March 2012. The total represents a 2.5-month inventory at the current rate of shipments.

U.S. service centers’ aluminum shipments rose in volume from February to March, increasing by 2.9% from 114,300 tons to 116,900 tons.

The new figure is a decline of -13.8%, year-on-year, falling from 135,500 tons in March 2012 to 116,900 tons last month. The daily shipping rate for aluminum fell from 6.2 tons/day in March 2012, and 5.7 tons/day in February, to 5.6 tons/day in March 2013.

The year-to-date aluminum shipments stand at 357,300 tons, falling -10.5% from 399,100 tons in March 2012.

Aluminum inventories at U.S. centers fell only slightly, in March, from 363,100 tons in February to 362,400 tons in the more recent month. The current total represents a slight decrease in inventories, from 3.2-months supply in February to 3.1-months supply at the current shipping rate.