NEW YORK Strong demand for ferrous scrap from Taiwan and China and a big rebound in iron ore prices have sent West Coast export tags for containerized scrap shipments soaring more than $25 per tonne in the past two weeks.
Chinas return to U.S. shores has shored up market confidence in higher prices as offers continue to rise, according to market participants.
Several sources reported export sales of containerized shipments of an 80/20 mix of No. 1 and No. 2 heavy melt over the past five days in a range of $390 to $395 per tonne c.f.r. Taiwan, up from late-December sales concluded at $365 to $370 per tonne (amm.com, Dec. 28).
One exporter said prices jumped an additional $5 on Tuesday to $400 per tonne c.f.r. Taiwan, although no transactions were confirmed at that level. "They are actually over $400 now for containers, so it is up about $55 since the low point," he said.
However, a buyer for one Taiwanese producer said that he had yet to trade at $395 per tonne.
Market sources attributed the rapid increase in prices to two key factors.
"I think the increase is because iron ore went up $60 a tonne," a second exporter said, echoing a common market opinion on one of two key drivers.
The other critical factor has been a run-up in rebar prices in Taiwan, a third exporter said. "Rebar sales are up again. You cant make rebar without scrap."
"Taiwan is paying as high as $390 to $395 per tonne," a fifth source said. "Increased demand from the mills is mainly causing this run-up. A lot of them had slowed down on buying towards the end of the year to keep low inventories and now are trying to replenish. South Korea is mainly looking for plate and structural and busheling at $405 per tonne to main ports."
A sixth export source said that seasonal winter trends have affected the United States and Asia. "I suspect overseas mills thought prices would swoon in late November akin to the late autumn, but that did not materialize, leaving them with skimpy inventories," he said. "Iron ore jumps up (and) scrap intake (is) off as much as 25 percent, depending on the region, all resulting in the $25-per-tonne jump in the last 10 days."
Meanwhile, sources said U.S. exporters also have increased bulk offer prices to China and Taiwan, with offers reported in a range of $425 to $435 per tonne for HMS 1&2 (80:20).
"No one has bought at that, but that is what theyre asking," another source said.