Scrap steel prices are up in November largely due to the thin supply of scrap steel available and the price increases recently released by the mills on new steel products. Most markets around the country saw the market on steel scrap up $10-20 GT this month with Detroit and Chicago being the most aggressive markets, raising prices $30/GT. This strength is forecasted to stabilize thru the rest of this year as volumes of steel scrap around the county are weak and winter-like weather, coupled with fewer shipping days because of holidays, may decrease the flow of scrap into the mills further intensifying the shortages. Locally, the mills around the Mountain west and Western U.S. have a more balanced supply versus demand equation and less likely to pay the premiums seen in the Midwest markets. In addition, our localized mills are making mostly rebar products and unable to pass on the premiums seen by other prime steel mills further East.
Scrap steel exports are still asleep as foreign buyers keep to the sidelines. Very little scrap is moving off the West Cost to the once heavy consuming countries of Asia and India. Turkey too is quiet, only jumping into the market occasionally to secure a barge of scrap off the East Coast.
Base metals have seen quite a bit of price fluctuation over the past 30 days. Markets on aluminum, copper, and nickel all looked like they were starting to strengthen in mid-October as prices began to raise on the news that the U.S. government shutdown was over. Unfortunately the market strength struggled to maintain momentum and prices have once again retreated this past week. Chinese imports of copper scrap was down 11% in October signaling their production slowdowns in their cooling economy. China is the largest consumer of copper scrap so this decrease in copper imports may cause a sustained softening in copper prices.
Aluminum and Nickel prices are based on the London Metals Exchange (LME) and Europe too is seeing some woes. The European Central bank recently cut benchmark interest rates by 0.25% to help stimulate their weak economy and strengthen the struggling Euro. Inventory levels for Nickel in the LME warehouses hit an all time high this week further adding to the concerns that this market is over supplied and as a result nickel prices fell 4.6% over the past 2 weeks as inventory levels inflated. This price decline on nickel may have an impact on stainless prices in the near future.
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