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Steel scrap prices reach ‘tipping point’

Global – Although US scrap market price negotiations settled ‘mostly sideways’ for September, October may prove to be ‘the tipping point’ because export values have started to head lower and scrap flows in America remain healthy, it is noted in the latest ferrous mirror publication from the BIR world recycling organisation.

For businesses in the EU, meanwhile, the export market has quietened somewhat and prices have retreated – a case of the market ‘taking a deep breath and stepping back’. However, underlying sentiment within the marketplace ‘is still relatively positive’.

From Asia, it is reported that India continues to be priced out of the international ferrous scrap market and that its imports are expected to be around 40% lower than last year. Bangladesh is described as the driving force behind demand in the south of the continent – a trend that is expected to continue.

Following an almost summer-long building boom in China, domestic orders for rebar have softened because the government has been placing more restrictions on lending into the construction sector.

According to the latest ‘World Steel Recycling in Figures’ update from BIR ferrous division statistics advisor Rolf Willeke, China was the world’s largest steel scrap user in the first half of 2017 with a year-on-year consumption leap of approaching 20 million tonnes or 46% to 62.2 million tonnes.

The same period also brought an increase in Chinese steel scrap exports owing to the country’s programme of eliminating induction furnaces. Customs figures indicate that China shipped out 298 106 tonnes of steel scrap in the first six months of 2017, with the biggest buyers including Taiwan on 96 398 tonnes, Indonesia on 48 695 tonnes, Vietnam on 28 975 tonnes and India on 27 634 tonnes.

The world’s largest steel scrap exporter remained the EU-28 as it boosted overseas shipments by 15.8% over the corresponding period of 2016 to 9.961 million tonnes, with the leading purchaser being Turkey (+19.5% to 5.975 million tonnes) followed by Pakistan (-6.4% to 718 000 tonnes).

World-leading steel scrap importer Turkey upped its overseas purchases by 1.6% in the first six months of this year to 9.327 million tonnes. Second place in the importer league table went to South Korea with a year-on-year increase of 7.8% to 3.037 million tonnes.

This article is based on the latest World Mirror on Ferrous Metals produced by the BIR world recycling organisation for the benefit of its members.

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