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Commodity News

Ferrous – On the ferrous front, the latest U.S. trade data show U.S. exports of ferrous scrap (excluding stainless steel and alloy steel scrap) were down 16% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019 on slower shipments to

Turkey (-16%), Mexico (-34%), and China (-94%), more than offsetting gains to S. Korea, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and certain European markets:

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Here’s the breakdown of U.S. ferrous scrap exports by major grade so far this year, including weaker exports of cut plate & structural (-42%), shredded steel (-28%), and No. 1 HMS (-15%):

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On the domestic front, the American Iron and Steel Institute reports that for “…the week ending on May 11, 2019, domestic raw steel production was 1,927,000 net tons while the capability utilization rate was 82.8 percent… The current week production represents a 6.6 percent increase from the same period in the previous year. Production for the week ending May 11, 2019 is up 0.6 percent from the previous week ending May 4, 2019 when production was 1,915,000 net tons and the rate of capability utilization was 82.3 percent.”

Nonferrous – Not surprisingly, reduced traded flows with China have had an especially pronounced impact on U.S. nonferrous scrap exports so far this year. YTD shipments on copper & copper alloy scrap to China are down 81% this year to less than 25,000 tons, as compared to the more than 130,000 tons of copper scrap shipped to China in the first quarter of last year. While copper scrap demand from Malaysia, South Korea, India, Japan, Taiwan, Belgium, and Hong Kong improved in the first quarter, YTD U.S. copper scrap exports are still down 4% year-on-year. Here’s the breakdown in our nonferrous scrap exports by grade so far this year:

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Here in the U.S., hopefully you saw ISRI’s Member Alert last week on mutilated coins, which explains: “After only a little over a year of resumed operations, the U.S. Mint again suspended the Mutilated Coin Redemption Program for an indefinite period. The U.S. Mint receives large bundles of coins that have been mutilated or damaged in the recycling process of used cars, vending machines, etc. 

The Mutilated Coin Redemption Program has been operated by the U.S. Mint for many decades. Several years ago, the U.S. Mint suspended this important program while pursuing litigation. In the meantime, scrap recyclers were forced to store these recovered but unusable coins for over three years with no alternatives. ISRI worked with the U.S. Mint to resume operations of this program and worked to offer suggestions to protect the integrity of the nation's currency. Very recently, ISRI learned that the program was again suspended. ISRI is trying to learn more details about the suspension and when the program may be resumed again.” For more information please contact Billy Johnson.   

Paper and Plastic – AF&PA have recently published their paper recycling statistics for 2018. Paper recovery rates hit a thirty year high of 68.1%. It is important to note that the paper recycling rate has always maintained an upward trajectory but, after the Great Recession, the supply of news has dramatically declined while corrugated has steadily risen. The rise in recycling of corrugated and board grades tracks with market research on the growth of e-commerce, decline of brick & mortar outlets, and warehousing distribution through a hub & spoke system.

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For more information, please contact ISRI Research Analyst Bernie Lee.

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