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BIR Non-Ferrous Metals World Mirror April 2012

Global – The following article is based on the latest Non-Ferrous Metals World Mirror produced by the BIR world recycling organisation for the benefit of its members.

BIR has already received a number of responses to its survey of members regarding theft from containers. The world body’€™s Brussels secretariat is working with the International Chamber of Commerce in its bid to reduce the scale of this problem. The overall aim is to help membership in the prevention of theft, in improving the tracking of container movements and in bringing thieves to account.

In China, fewer theft problems were apparently reported in March. Meanwhile, the domestic aluminium market has slowed, with consumers limiting their purchases in line with actual production needs rather than for stockbuilding. Zinc inventories remain high and show no sign of diminishing.

There has been controversy in Indonesia where, it has been reported, up to 100 000 tonnes of containerised ferrous scrap imports are backed up at ports in Jakarta, Surabaya, Semarang and Medan. But according to importers of non-ferrous scrap, there has been little impact on their sector and they have succeeded in clearing their consignments without any delay.

Meanwhile, exports from Auckland – the largest city and economic centre in New Zealand – have been undermined in recent months by rolling strikes. Overall in New Zealand and Australia, markets are considered ‘€˜sluggish’€™, with many merchants reporting seasonally sub-normal scrap intake at a time when domestic consumption remains reasonably strong.

In India, the government’€™s annual budget for 2012-13 has signalled the withdrawal of 4% Special Advalorem Duty (SAD) relating to brass and copper scraps. At present, the understanding is that some solid scraps like Troma and Zorba, which were previously licensed and restricted to actual users, have now acquired freely importable status.

Fellow BRIC member Brazil has endured a relatively slow first quarter for the domestic economy. Cable, extrusion and clean sheet have maintained steady price levels of, respectively, 112%, 108% and 95% of high-grade cash aluminium. UBC is at 71% but prices are expected to rise because supply has been low at this level.

‘€˜Challenging’€™ is how the market in Mexico is described, with most scrap operators suffering a decline in intake volumes and a continuing drop-off in demand for China. Although alternative markets exist for Mexico’€™s red metal exports, none are able to compensate fully for the decline in Chinese demand. In the aluminium market, meanwhile, alloys such as 6063 are experiencing ‘€˜limited but constant demand’€™, while light metal used in automotive production is enjoying ‘€˜robust’€™ demand both at home and overseas.

A dip in Chinese demand for non-ferrous scrap has also been noted in the Middle East, prompting the region’€™s processors to focus instead on other markets such as Japan, South Korea and India. Within the Middle East itself, consumption of aluminium scrap has suffered the fall-out from weaker demand for finished aluminium as a result of a slow-down in building activity.

The non-ferrous market remains generally ‘€˜tight’€™ in Southern Africa and is characterised by ‘€˜fierce’€™ competition for copper and brass. Heading into North America, aerospace is leading a generally stable business base. ‘€˜Solid’€™ overall demand is reported for metals, with Twitch and Zorba remaining much sought-after.

From Western Europe comes the view that the aluminium secondary market may have peaked for now, leaving a somewhat ‘€˜bleak’€™ outlook. The recent decline in car sales has impaired the performance of the secondary aluminium industry in Italy, with prices for secondary ingots at lower levels and ‘€˜few sales being concluded unless producers grant attractive discounts’€™. Aluminium scrap values have also drifted lower due to ‘€˜scarcity of demand’€™. In contrast, a general increase is reported in prices of copper scrap.

Copper and brass scrap arising in France has continued to be exported principally to Asian markets, not least because EU smelters are struggling to compete against the backdrop of a lack of sales. All forms of brass scrap are proving difficult to sell at decent prices. For many grades of aluminium scrap, suppliers are opting to hold on to their material in the hope of securing higher prices at a future point, although the better qualities have been commanding decent prices, largely from European buyers.

Trading in Germany over recent weeks has been termed ‘€˜routine’€™, with no major price swings recorded. Supply of copper scrap and cable has been healthy but the nickel market has continued to be weak. Reports from Russia suggest ‘€˜steady’€™ market conditions, with sales flowing well and non-payment issues limited primarily to domestic purchases of stainless steel scrap.

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