March 2021 Insight Guide: Market Indicators

March 2021 Insight Guide: Market Indicators

U.S Economic News

The U.S. economy got off to a modest start over the first weeks of this year. According to the Federal Reserve, businesses are optimistic about the next 6-12 months and the demand for housing is robust. However, the labor market is not gaining as much traction as had been hoped.

U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February after a disappointing 166,000 jobs in January. As COVID cases decline and the vaccine becomes more widely distributed, states are allowing businesses to ease restrictions. The February job growth was propelled mostly by a surge in leisure and hospitality employment. Economists expect to see job prospects to improve in the coming months as more and more Americans get vaccinated.

Economic Indicators

The Consumer Confidence Index improved again in February, after increasing in January. It now stands at 91.3, up from 88.9 in January.

The February Purchasing Managers Index registered at 60.8%, an increase of 2.1 points from January, indicating expansion in the overall economy for nine consecutive months. The New Orders Index came in at 64.8%, up 3.7 points from the previous month. The Production Index registered at 63.2%, up 2.5 points compared to January.

January’s reading of the Architecture Billings Index rose slightly to 44.9 compared to 42.3 in December. However, the score is still below 50. Any score below 50 indicates a decline in firm billings.

Steel Industry News

Steel is in short supply in the U.S. and prices are continuing to surge. Unfilled orders for steel were at the hightest level in 5 years last quarter. Inventories were at a 3 1/2 year low, according to the Census Bureau. These soaring prices are driving up costs and squeezing profits at steel-consuming manufacturers, causing a new round of calls for an end to former President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs.

The Midwest aluminum premium has risen to a nearly 16-month high. Market participants point to supply issues. Sources expect the supply to run dry in a few months unless imports can return to the U.S. market. With no imports coming in, the premium will continue to increase.

For more information, view the March 2021 Market Insight Guide below or contact your local sales rep.

Metalwest Market Insight - March 2021