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US nonferrous scrap exports rise as China ban impact lags

Oct 01, 2017 | 06:00 AM | AMM staff


U.S. exports of nonferrous scrap have yet to reflect a substantial impact from China’s plans to limit and ban certain scrap metal imports, with domestic exporters indicating that the effects are lagging but on the horizon.

Nonferrous scrap exports from the U.S. rose by 11,510 short tons in July compared with the prior month and jumped by 23,014 tons year on year.

The gains primarily stemmed from higher aluminum and copper scrap shipments to China (including Hong Kong), which rose 2.1 percent and 7 percent, respectively, in July vs. the previous month.

The gains surprised some exporters, who said they had expected scrap shipments to China to begin to slow following the country’s push to reduce imports of some scrap metal items due to environmental concerns.

Although an official ban has yet to be announced, market sources remain deeply concerned about China’s decision, as items such as lower-grade zorba and zorba fines, as well as various insulated copper and aluminum wires are seen as in the crosshairs.

“Declines in nonferrous scrap exports are coming,” said one U.S. exporter. “We’re still very busy, but we’re continuing to find alternative markets other than China to ship into,” the exporter noted.

Other exporters were similarly surprised by the data. “We’re seeing, to some degree, a lagging effect for shipment receipt, which means declines might show up in August and September data,” a second exporter observed. “I would also assume consumers in China bought ahead to give them (a) buffer,” he said, noting that buying activity for twitch and higher grades of zorba have been on the rise as consumers seek to avoid having material that can be subject to rejection.

Of the seven nonferrous scrap grades—aluminum, aluminum used beverage cans (UBCs), copper, lead, lead-acid batteries, nickel and zinc—tracked by AMM, only UBCs and lead-acid battery scrap volumes declined during July vs. June, while the other grades rose on a year-on-year basis.


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