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STEEL SERVICE CENTER SHIPMENTS REMAIN STEADY IN FEBRUARY

 CLEVELAND, March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's $24 billion steel service center industry today reported that daily shipments, although steady, decreased slightly from unusually strong shipping levels in January, according to the latest Business Conditions Report of the Steel Service Center Institute (SSCI). January's average daily shipping rate had jumped 16.5 percent over December -- the highest in recent history and the best January on record.
 In February, the average daily shipping rate slipped 2.3 percent from January, due to reported increases in only three of seven product categories. Carbon tubing experienced the largest increase over January levels, up 5.4 percent, followed by lesser gains in stainless steel products and carbon plate, up 0.9 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. Average daily shipments of carbon bars registered a decline of 5.5 percent, followed closely by smaller decreases in structural shapes (down 4.4 percent) and carbon flat rolled products (down 3.7 percent). Alloy products remained unchanged. Both February and January had 20 shipping days.
 "The slight decline in average daily shipments is not surprising, however, combining January and February provides a better measure of performance," said Andrew G. Sharkey, SSCI president. "We're anticipating strong shipping levels in March, which will have three additional shipping days, thus rounding out what should be a very strong first quarter."
 Compared to February 1992, this month's average daily shipping rate for all products was up 8.3 percent, with six of seven product categories posting increases from a year ago. Carbon plate experienced the largest gain of 13.2 percent, followed by tubular products and alloys, up 12.3 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively. Structural shapes, which continue to lag, were off 2.9 percent, compared to February 1992.
 For the year-to-date (two months), the service center average daily shipping rate is running an encouraging 10.4 percent ahead of last year's pace. According to SSCI, all product categories, with the exception of structural shapes, maintain double digit increases.
 Recent monthly surveys, by both the SSCI and the National Association of Purchasing Managers (NAPM), reveal that service center executives and purchasing managers remain equally optimistic regarding economic activity and incoming orders over the next three months.
 Total inventories remained steady, dipping only a slight 18,000 tons in February to a level of 5,899,083 tons. February's inventory-to- shipments ratio also remains steady at 3.20 months of supply, compared to 3.14 months of supply in January. One year ago, the inventory-to- shipments ratio stood at 3.54 months of supply.
 "There was little month-to-month fluctuation in inventories, due mainly to the strong shipping rate. However, inventories are still expected to increase through the May-June time frame before stabilizing at 6.3-6.5 million tons," said Sharkey.
 The Steel Service Center Institute is a trade association representing the interests of the steel service center industry. America's steel service centers purchase and distribute about 30 percent of all carbon industrial steel products and nearly 45 percent of all stainless steel produced in the United States.
 Steel service centers are the largest single customer group of the domestic steel industry and serve the metal supply needs of more than 300,000 manufacturers and fabricators through plant locations nationwide. Because SSCI reports the scope and level of business activity as it relates to a wide cross section of industrial America, its Business Conditions Report is considered an excellent barometer for the state of the economy.
 February Average Daily Shipping Rate -- All Products
 Down 2.3 percent compared to January, 1993.
 Up 8.3 percent compared to February, 1992.
 Up 10.4 percent year-to-date (2 months).
 Inventories
 February, 1993: 3.20 months' supply.
 January, 1993: 3.14 months' supply.
 February, 1992: 3.54 months' supply.
 -0- 3/24/93 R
 /CONTACT: Mark Willis of Watt, Roop & Co., 216-566-7019, for the Steel Service Center Institute/


CO: Steel Service Center Institute ST: IN: MNG SU:

DA -- CL001B -- 9206 03/24/93 15:06 EST
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Date:Mar 24, 1993
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