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High demand, tight supply buoy zorba prices

Keywords: Tags  zorba, twitch, aluminum scrap, auto shred, Nathan Laliberte

NEW YORK — Domestic prices for shredded aluminum scrap, known as zorba, have weakened slightly since the start of March, but sources told AMM that higher demand and tighter supply kept tags from falling further in step with exchange prices.

Picked-up prices for 90-percent metallic units have slipped to 72 to 74 cents per pound, down from 73 to 75 cents in the first week of February, market participants said.

"For us, it’s a domestic product right now," one seller told AMM. "Prices have weakened, but the domestic market is still pushing for higher numbers, largely because of supply issues. Inbound flows have been terrible, and bad weather has made it a lot more difficult to acquire material."

"Weather affects shredder feed, and that in turn affects zorba supply," a second seller said. "It’s basically like every other nonferrous grade out there ... there just isn’t enough of it."

Export prices for zorba—which along with its upgrade, twitch, serves as the main feedstock for aluminum auto ingots—are 2 cents higher than domestic tags, trading at between 74 and 76 cents per pound, sources said.

Chinese demand for zorba is still strong, although recent changes to Chinese scrap laws have made exporting slightly more of a challenge, several sources told AMM.

"The Chinese are definitely getting stricter about the types or zorba they are taking," one exporter said. "They used to be fine with circuit boards, but the government is getting pickier with what is acceptable and what’s not. They are demanding a better product."

Despite stepped-up restrictions, the Chinese market is still attractive to exporters. "If you look at how much copper and aluminum has fallen off, zorba is only off about 2 cents from last month," a second exporter said. "The auto industry in China is booming, and there is still strong demand for the product. We’re making money and we get paid in five to seven days, as opposed to 30 to 60 days for domestic shipments."

"Prices for zorba have come down slightly, but certainly not as much as other aluminum scrap," a third exporter said. "Thankfully, we don’t have a problem finding a market for it."

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