Box shipments increased 4.1% to 30.119 billion ft2 in June on an actual basis but were down 0.8% average-week, adjusted for one more shipping day in the latest month, the Fibre Box Assn. (FBA) reported.
For the first half, box shipments were down 0.3% from a year ago on the same number of shipping days in both periods.
US containerboard inventories at box plants and mills declined 11,000 tons in June to 2.358 million tons, which compares to a five-year average sequential increase of 22,000 tons and a ten-year average decrease of 1,000 tons, according to Adam Josephson of KeyBanc.
US containerboard mills continued to run at high rates at 97.1% in June, almost the same as 97.0% in May but down from 97.8% a year ago, according to the American Forest & Paper Assn (AF&PA). For the first half, mills averaged 95.9% of capacity.
Containerboard production in June rose 0.7% from a year ago with a boost from export output and increased 0.6% for the first half compared with a year ago, AF&PA reported.
US linerboard production for export in June jumped 13.1% from a year ago and was up 5.5% year-to-date.
Even though box shipments remained sluggish in the first half with a 0.3% decrease, this performance looks "quite respectable" when compared to the 3.0% decline in US real GDP for the first quarter, noted Chip Dillon of Vertical Research Partners.