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Container scrap prices slide as Taiwan retreats

Keywords: Tags  scrap, exports, ferrous scrap, steel scrap, HMS, heavy melting scrap, South Korea, Taiwan China

NEW YORK — West Coast export prices for containerized ferrous scrap have retreated to late-April levels following the end of a brief demand spike from Taiwan.

Market participants who had reported export sales of an 80/20 mix of No. 1 and No. 2 heavy melt in a range of $360 to $370 per tonne c.f.r. Taiwan at the start of May said prices are now back to the $350- to $355-per-tonne range.

An earlier lull in demand from Taiwan, China and South Korea had sent HMS 1&2 (80:20) prices under $350 per tonne in mid-April, but improving rebar prices in Taiwan forced mills there to return to U.S. shores for scrap, which helped briefly lift prices to a range of $355 to $360 per tonne (, April 26). Sources said prices even trekked as high as $370 per tonne for some shipments during the last days of April before gradually returning to the $350- to $355-per-tonne price range after Taiwanese mills fulfilled their initial orders.

Exporters were divided when asked about demand levels this past week, as some said demand was weak while at least one said demand remained steady.

“Markets are soft in all regions,” said one large exporter, citing new container prices at $352 per tonne c.f.r. Taiwan, down from a previous week’s range of $355 to $360. The large exporter said softness in rebar sales in Taiwan caused the price decline. 

Other sources said large exporters have offered several bulk cargo vessels of scrap to consumers in Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia, with the potentially large supply contributing to a softening in container prices.

Buyers for different mills in South Korea and Taiwan confirmed that they were offered several bulk cargoes, and rumors are rife that bulk sales were concluded to Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea.

“The market is very difficult (on the) West Coast. There is very little demand from Asia,” said a buyer for a South Korean consumer. “Container scrap is being offered at $350 to $355 for HMS 1&2 (80:20).”

A buyer for a Taiwanese steel producer said Taiwan’s mills were offered five bulk cargoes at a price range of $380 to $383 per tonne for heavy melt.

Container offers were lower at $355 per tonne c.f.r. Taiwan, but “it’s more important why five bulks were offered,” he said, adding that in his opinion, it means South Korea is out of the market.

A second West Coast exporter said South Korean exports of finished goods to Taiwan have impacted Taiwanese mills’ sales and consequently hurt their demand for U.S. scrap.

At least one exporter, however, said he felt that demand is healthy.

“There still is steady demand from Taiwan and Korea. However, pricing has been slipping the last few weeks but seemed to have settled at around $350 to $355 per tonne c.f.r. Taiwan,” the third exporter said. “Demand had lessened the last couple weeks, with larger mills buying less than what they normally do. However, it seems as if the past week, demand has stabilized and there seems to be decent interest at these levels.”

Meanwhile, a fourth exporter said he expects prices to decline further.

“Tokyo Steel (Co. Ltd.) lowered prices, and Kanto (region) dealers are putting No. 2 heavy melt into Taiwan at $345,” he said. “One Korean consumer is waiting for bulk to go to the $370 level, if that, as Russian bulk scrap is available at the $365 range.”

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