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Spent lead battery prices steady

Keywords: Tags  lead battery prices, junk batteries, lead scrap, zinc scrap, scrap prices, LME, Exide Technologies, Daniel Fitzgerald

NEW YORK — Scrap lead battery tags were stable this week amid steady demand and supply, although further price drops could force more units into the export market, traders said.

Junk auto batteries were unchanged at 36 to 38 cents per pound, with many consumers forecasting further price drops in the near future as cold weather increases domestic supply.

One consumer said his company was currently quoting at 36 cents per pound, but "we’ll be moving that down again on the first of the month to 35 cents."

However, increased supply could merely divert more scrap to the export market if those prices are more attractive, some traders said.

"All they can do is fall to the next level, which will see them go to Mexico," one broker told AMM.

"There’s a capacity limit in the U.S. now, particularly with Frisco and Reading closing. There are a lot more batteries than what people can use domestically," the broker said, referring to the closure of Exide Technologies’ battery recycling facility in Frisco, Texas, and the Milton, Ga.-based company’s plan to idle its Reading, Pa., plant by March 31 (, Nov. 9).

"We’ve noticed that some of the Canadians seem to have the stronger numbers," a second broker agreed.

Meanwhile, lead scrap prices moved up to a range of 80 to 82 cents per pound from 78 to 80 cents, while cable lead moved up to a range of 82 to 84 cents per pound from 80 to 82 cents.

The second broker said that some consumers were paying a bit of a premium on these grades in order to complete their business before the end of the week.

"I expect next week there won’t be much of anything going on," he said, adding that high primary lead premiums continue to entice some lead consumers to use more scrap, another factor in the free-market price rise.

The three-month primary lead contract closed the London Metal Exchange’s official session at $2,333 per tonne ($1.06 per pound) Wednesday, up 4.2 percent from $2,238 per tonne ($1.015 per pound) on Dec. 5.

Meanwhile, zinc scrap traders said their market could be affected next year by a major consumer changing its scrap feedstock, although the effects have yet to be seen.

New zinc clippings rose to 62 to 65 cents per pound from 62 to 64 cents previously, while old zinc moved up to 48 to 50 cents per pound from 47 to 49 cents.

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