Ferrous scrap exports from the United States (excluding stainless steel and alloy steel scrap) rose from 1.17 million metric tons in September to nearly 1.48 million tons in October thanks to improved overseas demand for shredded,
No. 1 heavy melt, cast iron scrap, and other ferrous grades, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
However, for the year-to-date, U.S. ferrous scrap exports are still down nearly 1.6% as compared to the first 10 months of 2018 as weaker demand from Taiwan, Mexico, India, Egypt and other markets have more than offset improved trade flows with Turkey (+5.7%), Vietnam (+28.3%), South Korea (+28.8%), Bangladesh (+12.1%), Malaysia (+109%), and others.
For the year-to-date, U.S. copper and copper alloy scrap exports to mainland China are down 69% as compared to the first 10 months of 2018 to just over 80.8 kt. For comparison’s sake, in March 2018 the U.S. shipped around 48,000 tons of copper scrap to China and in October 2019 those shipments were down to less than 5,000 tons. For the most recent month, the largest shipments to China by grade were for No. 2 copper, Bare Bright, other refined copper scrap, and mixed copper and copper alloy scrap, in that order.
For the year to date, total copper and copper alloy exports from the U.S. are down 2.8% as the weaker shipments to China have been partially offset by improved demand from Malaysia (+122.5%), India (+33.6%), Germany (+22%), Belgium (+29%), Pakistan (+46.5%), and other markets.
Recovered Paper and Fiber
Unlike with most other scrap commodities, China remains the largest market for U.S. export sales of recovered paper and fiber. According to U.S. Census Bureau trade data, the U.S. exported nearly $808 million of recovered paper to mainland China during Jan-Sep 2019, following by India ($385 million), Mexico ($236 million), Canada ($125 million) and South Korea ($116 million). Overall, U.S. recovered paper exports during the first 9 months were down 6.5% by value year-on-year to $2.2 billion and were down 6.7% by volume to 13.0 million metric tons (=14.3 million short tons).
By grade, OCC exports have had the worst performance this year, declining 7% by volume (-593,000 metric tons) to 7.5 million million tons, followed by printed news (-376,000 mt) and mixed paper (-89,000 mt). In contrast, U.S. exports of pulp substitutes and high-grade deinking grades have posted net gains of 15,000 tons and 63,000 tons, respectively, so far this year.
While corrugated exports are “only” down 7 percent by volume for the year-to-date, the monthly volumes have been slowing over the course of the year. As compared to January 2019, when the U.S. exported 922,000 metric tons of corrugated, by September the volume was down to 738,000 tons amid lighter loadings for China, India, and other key markets. For comparison’s sake, the Sep 2019 corrugated exports were down 27% from the more than 1 million tons shipped in Sep 2018.
The slower export shipments were compounded by diminished domestic demand for OCC. The AF&PA estimates U.S. consumption of OCC was down 2% year-on-year in October and off 4% for the year-to-date. In contrast, domestic mixed paper consumption increased 7% Y-o-Y in October. As a result, AF&PA estimates total U.S. recovered paper consumption in October 2019 totaled 2.722 million tons, down 1% as compared to consumption in October 2018. For the year-to-date (Jan-Oct), U.S. recovered paper consumption is down 3% as compared to the corresponding period last year, which has translated into lower prices this year.