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The higher cost to shred, shear or otherwise process ferrous scrap might have created a higher floor on prices.
Photo by Recycling Today staff

Ferrous prices may have hit trough

Overseas buyers are offering low bids, but for obsolete grades they could be hitting a processing cost floor.

June 28, 2022

Steel mills around the world have been able to pay less for their scrap the past two months, but offers being made for heavy melting scrap (HMS) may be testing a price floor for processors and shippers.

Offers and transactions reported by metals pricing service Davis Index indicate buyers from Turkey, India, Taiwan and other nations had continued asking for lower per-ton prices into the third week in June.

Rising fuel (scrap collection) costs and reduced flows into yards, however, could mean there is a price floor of about $330 to $365 per ton, depending on the destination and freight arrangements.

One U.S.-based trader contacted by Recycling Today says some of his ferrous scrap suppliers are reporting peddler traffic has been reduced by from 30 percent to 60 percent compared with two months ago. A one-two punch of rising fuel costs and less money received at the scale “is causing some peddlers to just give up and stay at home,” the trader says.

Although demolition projects continue to bring plate and structural and HMS grades into yards for now, a downturn in ferrous prices is almost always followed by a downturn in demolition activity as property owners and contractors hold off while waiting for a price rebound.

“Overseas buyers have been operating under the notion that there’s plenty of scrap to be had in North America, but that is becoming less true,” the trader says.

A tilt in the supply and demand landscape, along with a new processing cost floor caused by inflation, seems poised to stop the price declines in the ferrous market and maybe even produce a slight rebound in the domestic mill July buying period.

By the last week in June, export buyers were beginning to make slightly higher bids, according to Davis Index. The news service reports buyers in India and Pakistan paying about $10 per ton more for inbound scrap this week compared with the prior one, while prices for shipments to Turkey are “trending flat.”