US box shipments still sluggish in May as inventories show less than seasonal 48,000-ton decline

By Will Mies Tue, Jun 17, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO, June 17, 2014 (RISI) -US box shipments remained sluggish in May and containerboard inventories showed a less than normal seasonal decline of 48,000 tons, according to latest industry statistics.

Box shipments of 30.972 billion ft2 declined 4.2% on an actual basis but were up 0.3% average week (reflecting one less shipping day this May compared with a year ago), the Fibre Box Assn (FBA) reported.

Year-to-date US box shipments were down 1.2% on an actual basis and almost flat average week at down 0.2% from a year ago.

US containerboard inventories at box plants and mills declined 48,000 tons in May to 2.373 million tons. The decline was smaller than the average five-year decline for May of 84,000 tons and the ten-year decline for the month of 69,000 tons, noted Adam Josephson of KeyBanc.

"The absolute inventory level is 11% higher than the five-year May average (2.140 million tons) and 5% higher than the ten-year May average (2.267 million tons) and is the highest in any May since 2007," he noted.

Weeks of supply in May stood at 4.0 weeks compared with a ten-year average of 3.8 weeks and was the highest level for May since 2009, noted Chip Dillon of Vertical Research Partners.

US containerboard mills operated at a 96.9% rate in May, down from 97.3% from a year ago, American Forest & Paper Assn (AF&PA) reported. Year-to-date containerboard mills ran at 95.6% for the first five months, slightly below 96.4% a year ago.

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