Scrap Market’s Bullish on September Prices

Written by Tim Triplett

Sentiment in the ferrous scrap markets is bullish leading into September, pointing to higher prices on both prime and obsolete scrap next month. That bodes well for the price increases on flat rolled and plate steel products announced by the mills this week.

Domestic demand continues to improve as scrap yard inflows remain relatively weak. Large pricing discrepancies between different regions of the country should begin to level out next month, so certain areas of the country will see greater increases than others, said one scrap dealer in the Northeast.

“Domestic mills will continue to be aggressive with prices to keep scrap from moving into the export market. Exporters will raise their prices to cover higher level sales taken weeks ago. Excess scrap has been consumed or sold into export. Combined with an overall restocking period for big EAFs, that will provide tailwinds for strong pricing through October,” he predicted.  

The August scrap trade was regionally disparate in terms of scrap demand and the resulting price increases from July, said another scrap exec. The spread between the weaker Midwest markets and Eastern and Southern markets for obsolete grades was as wide as $30-40/GT. Better demand in the Midwest in September will require mills to lift scrap bids by significantly more than Southern mills or risk losing scrap to other regions. “It’s a little hard to say at this point how much the September market increase will be, but expect $20 in Southern and Eastern markets and $30-50 in Midwest markets,” he said.  

Export pricing remains firm around $280-285 per ton CIF for 80/20 grade out of the U.S. “With continued demand and inflation in Turkey, however, not to mention continued strength in Asian steel pricing, I don’t expect Turkish scrap import prices to fall far from those levels any time soon. Even at these export prices relative to domestic levels, export shred retains a premium. I would expect a good bit of trading to happen before the Labor Day holiday weekend,”  he added,

Concurred another SMU source: “The USA scrap market is pent-up price wise after a split market last month between North and South. Most believe the northern markets in Detroit and Chicago will have to rise as much as $40/GT on obsolescent scrap and $10-20/GT on prime. Southern mills will be up less, but shredded and HMS are getting scarce. The export market for these grades has not let up despite a temporary lull in Turkish sales.”

The pig iron market has been inactive of late, he added. “The suppliers are asking for prices in the mid $370s, but there’s nothing around until November shipment. The USA mills will probably have to succumb to these type of prices eventually. Maybe sooner than later.”

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