Preliminary estimates show North American aluminum demand, measured as shipments from US and Canadian producers plus imports, fell three percent in April over April 2005, according to an industry report.

April shipments declined to an estimated 2.087 billion lbs from 2.152 billion lbs in April 2005, the Aluminum Association said in its latest report.

For the year to date through April, shipments were down 0.2% at 8.544 billion lbs from the comparable 2005 period.

At 1.482 billion lbs, the association said, demand for semi-fabricated mill products was off 2.6% from April last year.

Mill product demand for the year so far fell by 1.7% to 5.916 billion lbs from the year-ago period.

April demand in U.S. and Canadian domestic markets dropped by 5.0% from the year-ago month to 1.861 billion lbs. So far this year, domestic demand was down by 2.4% at 7.679 billion lbs, the industry group said.

In its breakdown of US and Canadian mill products, the association said, demand for aluminum sheet and plate totaled 834 million lbs in March, 4.7% below April 2005.

Extruded products declined 3.0% year-on-year to 388 million lbs in April.

Shipments of aluminum ingot for castings and other uses declined 4.0% in April over April last year to a total of 605 million lbs.

Producer inventories rose 0.8% to 3.278 billion lbs in April from March’s revised total of 3.251 billion lbs.

It said aluminum exports from the US and Canada, excluding cross-border trade, grew by 34.5% to 497 million lbs in April this year over the previous year, the report said.

For the year to date, exports rose by 43.5%, the industry association said.

Imports slid 18.1% in April to 597 million lbs. Year-to-date imports lost 14.6% to 2.037 billion lbs.

The Aluminum Association’s Index of Net New Orders of Aluminum Mill Products gained 6.6% in May over April.

Orders for flat roll products, including can stock, were up 8.4% in May, and order receipts for extruded products increased by 2.1% in May over April.

Orders for other mill products, including drawing stock, electrical conductor and forgings, rose 3.1% in May.

On a year-to-date basis, total orders were 7.1% above the same period in 2005.

Primary aluminum production in May in the US and Canada edged up by 877 tons over April production to an annual rate of 5,361,461 tons.

The May result was down 1.5% compared with year-ago production of 5,440,572 tons.

Actual production in May came to 455,357 tons and to 2,219,779 tons for the year through May. (Reuters)