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March 20, 2017

Steel Shipments Decline In U.S., Canada In February While Chinese Output Quickens

  • According to the Metals Service Center Institute, metals shipments decreased substantially in February in Canada for both aluminum and steel and were down only slightly in the United States. In February 2017, U.S. service center steel shipments decreased by 1.7 percent from the year before while steel product inventories fell 6.4 percent from February 2016 to February 2017. U.S. service center shipments of aluminum products in February decreased by 0.4 percent year-over-year while aluminum inventories increased 2.4 percent. Canadian service center shipments of steel products, meanwhile, decreased by 7.8 percent from February 2016 while steel product inventories fell 3.3 percent. Canadian service center aluminum shipments in February dropped 10.3 percent and inventories declined 1.7 percent. Meanwhile, according to American Metal Market (subscription required) steel output from major mills in China increased four percent at the end of February 2017.
  • Industrial production in the United States was flat in February even though output in the manufacturing sector rose 0.5 percent and mining production increased 2.7 percent. A 5.7 percent decline in utilities’ output was the driver behind the flat overall reading.
  • Canadian manufacturing sales rose 0.6 percent in January—a reading that was significantly better than the 0.2 percent decline analysts had predicted. According to Reuters, sales were up in 14 of 21 industries, which represent three-quarters of the manufacturing sector. Petroleum, coal, and chemical sales increased at the strongest rates.
  • The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6 in February to 126.2, the index’s highest reading in nearly a decade. According to Conference Board Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research Ataman Ozyildirim, “Widespread gains across a majority of the leading indicators points to an improving economic outlook for 2017, although GDP growth is likely to remain moderate.”
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of individuals who filed for federal unemployment benefits fell to 241,000 for the week that ended March 11 from 243,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims rose slightly, however, but the number of individuals who continued to file for benefits declined. That figure fell to 2.03 million for the week that ended March 4 from 2.06 million the week before. The four-week moving average of continuing claims also declined. In other employment-related news, the Labor Department announced there were 5.6 million jobs open in the United States at the end of January.
  • Regional manufacturing index readings in the United States have remained strong so far this month. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s manufacturing index declined to +16.4 in March from +18.4 in February. Despite the lower reading, the new orders index rose to +21.3, its highest level in several years, and the unfilled orders index hit its highest market in more than ten years. Read more here. The Federal Reserve Board of Philadelphia, meanwhile, announced that its index had fallen to +32.8 in March from +43.3 in February. Despite the drop, the index is still at a relatively high level on an historic basis. The new orders and shipments indexes both improved in the Philadelphia region this month.
  • The National Federation of Independent Business’s index of small business optimism declined 0.6 points from January to February, to 105.3, but is still near its 43-year high.
  • In other news: the U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.1 percent between January 2017 and February 2017 and 2.7 percent between February 2016 and February 2017; the U.S. Producer Price Index increased 0.3 percent from January to February and 2.2 percent between February 2016 and February 2017; real hourly earnings in the United States rose 0.1 percent between January and February, but were flat year-over-year; and the number of new homes in the United States increased 6.2 percent for the month and 4.4 percent between February 2016 and February 2017.