Written by: Sandy Williams
In the January ISM Steel Buyers Survey, 50 percent of respondents said they had enough inventory on hand to cover 1-2 months (a decrease of 11 percent in December), while 33.3 percents had inventory to cover 2-3 months (up from 15.4 percent last month). Inventory on hand year-over-year was reported as up by 10 percent or more by 41.7 percent of respondents, an increase over levels reported in December.
Demand to inventory level was reported as too high by 33 percent of respondents and just right by 58.3 percent. Current receipts compared to current shipments were reported the same as last month. Current receipts for the next three months were expected to be the same by 50 percent of respondents, while the other 50 percent were evenly split on whether receipts would be greater or less. A little over half of respondents expect to maintain inventory at the same level for the next six months while 41.7 percent expect to decrease levels.
More respondents in January saw orders in relation to efficient operation as being below optimal levels—25 percent compared to 15.4 percent last month. Orders to operating levels were seen as about right by 58.3 percent surveyed, down from 76.9 percent in December.
Backlogs were expected to increase over the next three months by 41.7 percent of respondents compared to 23.1 percent in December. The majority of the remaining respondents, 50 percent, felt backlogs would remain the same. More steel buyers expect incoming orders to be up over the next three months (50 percent compared to 38.5 percent) and 41.7 percent believe the trend will remain the same.
Efficient operating levels were seen as below optimal by 25 percent of respondents compared to 7.7 percent in December. Operating levels were judged just right by 58.3 percent, down from 84.6 percent last month.
Shipping levels compared to three months ago were perceived as the same by 50 percent and above by 33.3 percent. Compared to 12 months ago, shipping levels were reported as up by 75 percent of respondents.
Selling prices were seen as competitive by 66.7 percent and weak by 16.7 percent, compared to 84 percent finding sale prices competitive in December. No change was reported in how promptly customers are paying their bills.
No one had employees on short time or layoff in the past two months. More than half of respondents, at 58.3 percent, expect to hire new people.
Less than half of steel buyers (41.7 percent) expect to invest in new manufacturing facilities in 2013, down from 53.8 percent in December.
The trend of general economic activity is expected to improve in the next six months by 58.3 percent of respondents, up from 48.2 percent in December.
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