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Metal Market Report | August 2017

Ferrous:

The U.S. ferrous scrap market experienced steadily rising export pressures throughout the first week of August.  The increase in export activity contributed to a $10/gross ton increase for August.  U.S. scrap dealers were pleased to see a firm sideways market through July, trending into positive territory this month.  Even with the auto industry’s lackluster performance this year, steel shipments have continued to climb year on year, bolstered by a strong demand in the construction sector and a more robust demand for steel exports.  However, the current market bump may be short lived, as the market enters the historical summer doldrums when steel consumption typically dips across the country.  Scrap prices are not predicted to reach the levels realized during the March 2017 peak, when scrap inventories were in tighter supply.  As expected, scrap prices are likely to be stronger the closer you get to the water due to export buying pressures.

 

An extended delay in a final decision on Section 232 trade enforcement could also put downward pressure on steel prices in the coming months.  The underlying rumble is that steel mills may have prematurely inflated steel prices with expectations of the positive impact that Section 232 restrictions could potentially bring.  For the long term, the delay will hopefully provide the Commerce Department adequate time to consider a more measured balance in trade tariffs, quotas, or a combination of both.   It is far more important that Commerce get it right rather than just succumb to the pressure of a rushed, ill-advised deadline.

 

Non-Ferrous:

The dollar index fell to a 13 month low in July resulting in some market price gains for base metals. Copper started the month in a steady fashion trading most of the month within a small 5 cent window, however, copper prices strengthened in the final week of the month to hit a year high.  Aluminum and zinc prices remained relatively flat through July, unable to follow copper into higher territory. Nickel made some modest recoveries in July, ending the steep price erosion experienced during May and June. We are hoping these recent gains in nickel will translate into stronger stainless prices in the next few weeks.

 

China recently unveiled its plan to ban the import of low grade copper scrap in 2018 in an effort to observe stricter environmental regulations.  It’s still uncertain what items will be included in the ban but rumors are pointing at grades of copper wire. The ban is officially unconfirmed, but buyers and sells of copper scrap are sitting on pins and needles waiting for more clarification.

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