Most aluminium scrap prices rose in the United States this past week, and one of the biggest movers was aluminium-copper radiators, which found support from increased buying interest and higher Comex copper prices.
Fastmarkets’ assessment of the aluminium-copper radiators buying price, delivered to Midwest secondary smelters, jumped to $1.24-1.28 per lb on Thursday January 16, up by 5 cents from $1.19-1.23 cents per lb one week earlier.
The most-actively traded March-delivery Comex copper contract settled at $2.847 per lb on January 16, up from $2.802 per lb one week earlier.
Buying interest from China also contributed to firmer secondary scrap prices.
“China is coming in and buying huge volumes of RSI [re-melt scrap ingot], and the price has gone up a lot. I’ve heard over 50 cents. A lot of it is them buying to ship overseas and taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities,” one US buyer said.
In terms of domestic usage, China is importing RSI-grade aluminium - such as 1-1-3 sows - as a component of A380 secondary aluminium alloy because the chemical characteristics of the grades are similar.
As a result, the Fastmarkets aluminium scrap 1-1-3 sows buying price gained 3 cents on the low end and 4 cents on the high end to reach 40-43 per lb on January 16.
Continued tightness in the zorba market and the effects of its subsequently high prices have recently pushed shredders to turn to cheap aluminium scrap grades like old sheet to capitalize on the associated price differentials.
“I’m not sure the higher numbers will bring in more old sheet. We’re not buying a ton, but there’s not a lot out there anyway. A lot is going to the shredders for zorba,” the US buyer said.
Fastmarkets’ old sheet buying price edged up by 2 cents to 37-39 cents per lb; similarly, the old cast buying price rose by 3 cents to 37-40 cents per lb.
This prolonged and steady increase in the zorba price, following the recent limiting of output by shredders, has also pushed the price for auto-shred (twitch) to its highest since early August 2019.
The Fastmarkets non-ferrous auto shred (90% Al) buying price increased to 43-45 cents per lb on Thursday from 39-41 cents per lb last week.
Some scrap grades were relatively unchanged in terms of fundamental supply and demand, but more bullish sentiment across the board in the aluminium scrap market helped boost prices nonetheless.
Fastmarkets’ aluminium scrap siding buying price edged up by 1 cent to 38-40 cents per lb. And the assessment for the mixed clips buying price ticked up to 36-39 cents per lb from 35-38 cents per lb a week earlier.
The price for turnings rose for the third week in a row due to a production slowdown at the start of the year and higher demand from the overseas buying of zorba.
The aluminium scrap turnings clean dry high grade buying price rose by 1 cent at the lower end of the range to 29-31 cents per lb, and the turnings clean dry mixed grade (max 5% Zn) buying price also narrowed upward to 24-26 cents per lb from 23-26 cents per lb.
In terms of mill-grade aluminium scrap, there was some volatility in the market after weeks of stagnation, particularly for the 5052-grade product.
“The domestic mills have a fairly wide spread on that grade because some soft alloy mills have moved away from that alloy as a primary finished coil; they still make it, it’s just not as prevalent,” one US consumer said. “Other places have a more focused menu of finished product alloys, and 5052 is a big part of that; therefore they’re going to be more aggressive on it.”
The spread in Fastmarkets’ segregated low copper alloy clips 5052, mills specialty consumers' buying price, fob shipping point US widened to 70-74 cents per lb from 70-72 cents per lb to reflect the different buying patterns.
Fastmarkets’ painted siding, specialty consumers' buying price, delivered consumer US, narrowed upward to 47-49 cents per lb from 45-48 cents per lb.
“Painted siding seems to have been running on tighter spreads domestically, and we are having trouble buying from anyone near a major port. Keeping up with exporters is the name of the game on siding,” one US-based trader said.
Other US delivered-mill grade assessments edged up amid generally firmer aluminium scrap markets: The segregated low copper alloy clips 3105, mills specialty consumers' buying price, rose by 1 cent to 51-53 cents per lb, and Fastmarkets’ mixed low copper clips, specialty consumers' buying price, delivered consumer US, also edged up by a penny to 49-52 cents per lb.