US box shipments still under the weather in March as board inventories show less than normal 24,000 ton decline

By Will Mies Wed, Apr 16, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO, April 16, 2014 (RISI) -US box shipments remained soft in March while containerboard inventories showed a less than average seasonal decline of 24,000 tons, according to Fibre Box Assn (FBA) and American Forest & Paper Assn (AF&PA) statistics released today.

Box shipments increased 1.6% on an actual basis to 29.444 billion ft2, but declined 3.3% average week (adjusted for one more shipping day this March), FBA reported.

For the first quarter, box shipments were flat compared to a year ago on an actual basis, but down 1.6% adjusted for an extra shipping day in the latest period.

US containerboard inventories at box plants and mills declined 24,000 tons in March to end the month at 2.509 million tons. This would be less than the average 77,000 ton decline over the past decade and 99,000 ton decline over the past five years, according to Adam Josephson of KeyBanc.

Operating rates for US containerboard mills declined to 94.6% in March, down from 96.3% in February but up from 92.8% a year ago, according to AF&PA. Linerboard mills ran at 94.4% in March while medium mills averaged 95.1%.

US containerboard export production jumped 20.6% in March from the previous month to 418,000 tons, AF&PA reported.

"We can probably blame the weatherman" for the light March box shipments and inventory decline, "but not completely," noted Debbie Jones of Deutsche Bank.

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