NEW YORK A surge in demand from China and Malaysia helped boost U.S. ferrous scrap export volumes in May as sales to South Korea continued to falter.
U.S. exporters shipped 2,145,513 tonnes of ferrous scrap to offshore consumers in May, up 5.4 percent from 2,035,205 tonnes in the same month last year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Commerce Department. The figure marks the highest monthly volume this year and the first time ferrous scrap exports exceeded 2 million tonnes since August 2012.
Despite significantly lower shipments to Korea, which continued to focus on better-priced exports from a Japanese market bolstered by a change in currency policy, West Coast exporters shipped considerably more material to China and Malaysia and found new homes in Indonesia and Vietnam.
Weaker ferrous scrap prices in May reignited interest from China, which took 222,065 tonnes of U.S. scrap, up 46.7 percent from 151,324 tonnes a year earlier, and shipments to Malaysia soared 81.4 percent to 293,779 tonnes from 161,991 tonnes, while exports to Korea tumbled 62.7 percent to 118,673 tonnes from 317,993 tonnes in the same comparison.
U.S. exporters shipped 86,405 tonnes of ferrous scrap to Indonesia and 38,219 tonnes to Vietnam, indicating that the market is seeking larger trades with other Asian countries to offset declining exports to China (down9.7 percent), South Korea (down 39.9 percent), India (down 39.8 percent), and Thailand (down 87.8 percent) from a year ago.
Market participants attributed the declines to a moderate slowdown in China's economy, the market impact of some weaker Asian currencies and revalued Japanese yen, and struggling finished product sales in all four countries.
Turkey and Egypt offered good support for East and Gulf coast exporters in May. U.S. shipments to Turkey climbed 15.7 percent to 699,537 tonnes from 604,600 tonnes in May last year, while exports to Egypt soared to 116,017 tonnes from just 185 tonnes.
Some Gulf Coast exporters were likely impacted by weaker sales to Mexico, which took in just 23,799 tonnes of U.S. scrap in May, down 63.7 percent from 65,644 tonnes a year ago.