Shipments of steel and aluminum by North American service centers declined sharply from November to December, but for domestic metal service centers the volumes were nevertheless stronger than December 2012’s results — and brought the year to an end with a slight increase in U.S. steel deliveries.

For U.S. service centers, the results contained in the Metals Service Center Institute’s Monthly activity report were enough for the group to state that “December shipments lifted 2013 annual shipments to levels roughly equal with 2012 for both metals,” while allowing that “2013 remained slightly below 2012 in Canada.”

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.

Given holiday schedules, December is typically a slow month for service center deliveries, so some decline from Novemer totals may be expected.

Service centers in the United States shipped 2.95 million tons of steel products during December, down 0.4% from the November volume, but 16.5% higher than the December 2012 total. These centers achieved an average shipping rate of 140.4 tons/day, 8.5% less than the November rate of 154.4 tons/day.

Even so, the total brought the full-year steel shipments total for U.S. service centers to 41.4 million tons, 0.5% higher than the steel delivery totals for 2012.

As for inventories, the U.S. centers reported reserves totaling 8.4 million tons, up 5% from November but down 2.1% versus December 2012. At the current rate of deliveries, the new inventory total indicates U.S. service centers have a 2.8-month supply of steel in stock.

In Canada, service centers’ December steel shipments totaled 348, 700 tons, down 26.3% from November but up 3.0% from December 2012. The rate of deliveries slipped from 23.7 in November to 5.0 tons/day in December.

Total steel deliveries by Canadian steel service during 2013 slipped 6.5% from the 2012 total, ending at 1.48 million tons. The centers had 1.36 million tons of steel in inventory as the December ended, 8.6% more than in November and 25.5% less than in December 2012. At their current shipping rate, Canadian service centers’ inventories equal a 3.9-month supply of steel in stock.