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March 21, 2016

The Market Tracker: MSCI Announces Decline In U.S. Steel, Aluminum Shipments Has Slowed

  • According to MSCI, the decline of shipments from 2015 levels slowed somewhat in February for both steel and aluminum in the United States and increased slightly for steel in Canada. Inventory positions improved slightly for both metals in the U.S. and Canada. In February, U.S. service center steel shipments decreased by 4.6 percent from February 2015 while steel product inventories fell 20.6 percent. U.S. service center shipments of aluminum products in February dropped 0.4 percent from the same month in 2015 while inventories of aluminum products fell 7.7 percent. In Canada, service center shipments of steel products increased by two percent from February 2015 to February 2016 while inventories fell 21.6 percent. Finally, Canadian service center aluminum shipments declined 4.7 percent year-over-year while inventories dropped 17.9 percent.
  • U.S. industrial production fell 0.5 percent in February as utilities’ output declined by four percent and mining production fell 1.4 percent. Output at U.S. manufacturers did increase, however, rising 0.2 percent last month.
  • In a report that was better than analysts had expected, Statistics Canada announced last week that manufacturing sales in Canada rose 2.3 percent from December 2015 to January 2016 as motor vehicle sales increased to their highest level in more than 15 years. It was the third monthly overall sales increase in a row. Shipments were up 1.2 percent for the month of January and, from January 2015 to January 2016, sales increased 5.6 percent.
  • Regional manufacturing readings have been positive so far this month. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced last week that its manufacturing survey rose to +0.6 in March from -16.4 in February and was above zero for the first time since July 2015. New orders, shipments and prices all improved, but the labor market in the New York region was relatively unchanged. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, meanwhile, announced that its manufacturing survey increased to +12.4 in March from -2.8 in February as new orders, employment and shipments improved.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of individuals who filed for federal unemployment benefits for the first time increased to 265,000 for the week that ended March 12 from 258,000 the week before. Despite the increase, the number of first-time claims remained historically low. The four-week moving average of first-time claims rose slightly, but was below 300,000 for a record-breaking 54th week in a row. The number of individuals who continued to receive benefits, meanwhile, rose to 2.235 million for the week that ended March 5 from  2.227 million the week before. The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell by 9,250. In other employment news: 30 U.S. states added jobs in February while 20 states lost jobs; there were 5.5 million jobs open in the United States at the end of January; and real hourly earnings increased 1.2 percent from February 2015 to February 2016.
  • In other economic news: U.S. retail sales fell 0.1 percent in February, slightly below the 0.2 percent increase analysts had predicted; the U.S. Producer Price Index fell 0.2 percent in February, but was up 1.2 percent year-over-year; the U.S. Consumer Price Index fell 0.1 percent in February, but increased one percent from February 2015; and the number of homes under construction in the United States increased 5.2 percent from January 2016 to February 2016 and 30.9 percent from February 2015 to February 2016.