NEW YORK An apparent tightness in ferrous scrap supply in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and on the U.S. West Coast has triggered a rebound in containerized scrap export prices.
Sale prices to Taiwan are almost back to early September levels of $355 per tonne c.f.r. for an 80/20 mix of No. 1 and No. 2 heavy melt, market participants said, after falling to around $340 per tonne last month (amm.com, Sept. 20).
Significant volumes were sold to Taiwan last week at $350 per tonne c.f.r. for HMS 1&2 (80:20), with prices climbing higher at the start of this week, buyers and sellers said, while U.S. offer prices are now anywhere between $355 and $360 per tonne c.f.r. Taiwan, although sources said trading has been sparse in that range.
"With the additional rebar sales this (past) week, there is more demand for scrap than immediate availability," one exporter said. "Once again, the market in Asia dropped too much and is now paying the price to come back."
Apart from Taiwan, buyers for mills in China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand all expressed interest in U.S. scrap due to very low regional scrap availability, one trader said. "Im hearing Japan mills have interest in bulk cargoes and are looking out of the West Coast through Japanese traders. This is due to very low inventory levels in Japan."
Until recently, Japanese scrap dominated export sales to most Far East Asian markets as currency values and tepid domestic demand resulted in lower prices for its scrap. "They are now sold out on scrap and this is boosting prices and demand for U.S. scrap, which is also tight on supply," a second U.S. exporter said.
"There are now more available markets than available material," the first exporter said. "Mexico is pulling from the South, domestic from the North and East, and Asia from the West."
Seasonal production ramp-ups in Taiwan and improved order books for its rebar bar also have contributed to rising prices, other exporters said.
"Taiwans energy saving for the summer months is over and they are going into their peak season for buying," a third exporter said. "I expect prices to go a little higher due to the shortage of scrap on the West Coast."
However, some market participants suggested that the current upward trend could be temporary as the market establishes a ceiling.
"There is no reason to believe this will continue," one West Coast supplier said, while another said he wasnt sure if current price levels would hold or retreat.
Others said it was too early to determine where the market is headed.