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February 20, 2018 | by    

This Week’s Top Economic News: Steel, Aluminum Shipments Rise In U.S., Decline In Canada

  • The Metals Service Center announced last week that shipments for steel and aluminum rose again in January in the United States, but declined in Canada. U.S. service center steel shipments in January 2018 increased 4.3 percent from January 2017 while steel product inventories rose six percent. U.S. service center shipments of aluminum products rose 12.7 percent year-over-year while inventories increased 5.5 percent. In Canada, service center shipments of steel products in January 2018 fell 0.4 percent from January 2017 while steel product inventories dropped 2.1 percent. Canadian service center aluminum shipments in January fell 1.9 percent from the same month in 2017, but inventories rose 3.4 percent.
  • Factory sales in Canada fell 0.3 percent from November 2017 to December 2017. Sales declined in 11 of 21 industries, but the declines in the coal and petroleum sectors were the most substantial. New orders increased 0.3 percent while unfilled orders fell by 0.7 percent.
  • The Federal Reserve Board of Governors announced last week that industrial production in the United States fell 0.1 percent in January following four consecutive monthly increases. Manufacturing production was unchanged while mining output fell one percent and utilities’ output increased 0.6 percent. Total industrial production was 3.7 percent higher in January 2018 than it was in January 2017.
  • According to American Metal Market (subscription required), aluminum imports into the United States fell from 236,916 tons in 2016 to 225,399 tons in 2017. Excluding imports from Canada, full-year imports were 23.8 percent above their 2017 level and 108.2 percent higher than their 2015 mark.  
  • Manufacturing activity in the New York state region continued to expand in February though at a slower pace while activity around Philadelphia region also was strong. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve said “the demand for manufactured goods, as measured by the survey’s current new orders index, showed notable improvement.”
  • The National Federation of Independent Business’s Small Business Optimism Index increased to 106.9 in February, its highest level ever. Twenty percent of businesses said they plan to expand employment in the coming months while 29 percent said they plan to increase their capital outlays. Click here to read the full report.
  • The number of individuals in the United States who filed for federal unemployment benefits for the first time rose to 230,000 for the week that ended February 10, up from 223,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of first-time claims also increased, as did the number of individuals who continued to receive benefits. That figure rose to 1.942 million for the week that ended February 3 from 1.927 million the week before. The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell, however. In other labor-related news: hourly earnings in the United States fell 0.2 percent from December 2017 to January 2018.
  • In other economic news: the U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent from December 2017 to January 2018 and 2.1 percent between January 2017 and January 2018; the U.S. Producer Price Index increased 0.4 percent for the month and 2.7 percent year-over-year; U.S. imports prices rose one percent between December and January and 3.6 percent between January 2017 and January 2018; and the number of new homes under construction in the United States 7.4 percent between December 2017 and January 2018.