NEW YORK West Coast ferrous scrap export prices for containerized shipments have jumped about $10 per tonne in the past two weeks, with exporters aiming even higher.
Sources cited a tight scrap supply, lack of supplier interest in lower tags and recent increases in domestic scrap prices in China and Japan as some of the factors driving up tags.
U.S. exporters and buyers for some East Asian mills said that containerized sales to Taiwan of an 80/20 mix of No. 1 and No. 2 heavy melt scrap have been concluded at between $365 and $370 per tonne, up $10 from mid-December levels (amm.com, Dec. 14).
However, U.S. exporters offer prices are trending closer to the $380-per-tonne level, according to some sources.
"The container market continues to gain strength as demand outstrips supply," one U.S. exporter said. "I think that will be indicative of the U.S. domestic market as well in January: No $50 increases, but a modest uptick in prices."
A buyer for one Chinese scrap consumer said he had acquired containerized scrap at $367 and $368 per tonne in the past week, while a week earlier "the buying price was $360."
"There is certainly a flurry of inquiries with improved pricing," said a second exporter source, who reported inquiries in a wide range of $340 to $355 per tonne f.a.s. Long Beach, Calif. Most sources, however, reported a narrower range of $345 to $350 per tonne f.a.s.
"There are numerous inquiries from Taiwan and Vietnam for heavy melt. Vietnam and Malaysia have been quite viable for No. 2 bundles, although on a limited basis," the second exporter said. "I am not sure if the price increase is real or Asian buyers are merely jockeying for position to ensure their tonnage before and shortly after Lunar New Year observances in early February. Remember, there will most likely be a few weeks lag in business and shipping at different times in January."
A Taiwanese steel mill reportedly received a quote of $387 per tonne, which some suggested was too high as domestic rebar prices in Taiwan are at about the same price level.
A third exporter source said that the container market would rise, since scrap supply is tighter than demand and the rebar price in Taiwan is trending higher.
Some exporters expressed concerns over an imminent $50-per-tonne congestion fee surcharge for containerized shipments starting in January, which one source claimed "will ruin the container business." The fee "will place many of the smaller (and) independent brokers or traders on the sidelines. Im sure that (bigger exporters) are relishing the thought that container trade may be kicked in the shins for a while," he said.
Meanwhile, one market participant said the Taiwanese market is abuzz with a rumor of a bulk sale out of the United States to Taiwan at about $405 per tonne c.i.f. on a No. 1 heavy melt basis.
The sale, if confirmed, is on par with recent bulk sales of HMS 1&2 (80:20) to China concluded in range of $400 to $405 per tonne (amm.com, Dec. 27).