Shipments of steel and aluminum by North American service centers started the year with solid improvements over the wind-down of December 2013 — and though the year-on year changes were comparatively minor, the steady increases seemed to reduce the operators inventory levels.

The January results are contained in the Metal Service Center Institute’s Metals Activity Report. 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.

U.S. service centers shipped 3.65 million tons of steel during January, a 7.6% increase over the December volume, and an increase of 0.1% from January 2013. Also impressive, the daily shipping rate increased from 140.4 tons/day in December to 165.8 tons/day in January, an increase of 18.0%

At the same time, steel inventories at U.S. service centers rose 2.2% from December to 8.5 million tons, and decreased 2.1% from January 2013. At the current rate of deliveries that is estimated to be a 2.3-month supply.

Canadian centers’ steel shipments rose 42.1% from December, totaling 495,300 tons in January, which was 5.2% less than the January 2013 result. The daily shipping rate for Canadian steel service centers was 22.5 tons/day — a 29.3% rise from December.

The steel inventories at Canada’s service centers rose 3.3% in total volume from December, to 1.4 million tons. MSCI estimated that as a 2.8-month supply at current shipping rates.

U.S. service centers’ aluminum shipments rose 28.9% from December to January, totaling 134,300 tons in the latest report. That signifies an increase of 6.5% from January 2013. The new daily shipping rate is 6.1 tons/day, from 5.0 tons/day in December.

Aluminum inventories in U.S. service centers rose 11.9% to 382,300 tons in January, 4.3% higher than the January 2013 total. At the current rate of shipments, their inventories are equal to a 2.8-month supply.

Canada’s service centers shipped 13,700 tons of aluminum in January, 55.7% more than in December, and 0.9% more than in January 2013. The new daily shipping rate is 0.6 tons/day, 50% higher than in December, and even with the January 2013 daily shipping rate.

The aluminum inventories at Canada’s service centers totaled 37,800 tons through January, up 3.8% from December and down 7.0% from January 2013. At the current rate of deliveries, the Canadian service centers have a 2.8-month supply of aluminum.