RMDAS figures show gulf between prompt, obsolete grades
Shredded ferrous scrap supply outweighed demand in February, but that appears poised to change.
Photo by Brian Taylor

RMDAS figures show gulf between prompt, obsolete grades

Winter weather, new export interest may conspire to close the February gap.

February 22, 2021

A month’s worth of spot transaction pricing collected by Pittsburgh-based MSA Inc. for its Raw Material Data Aggregation Service (RMDAS) displays the plunge in prices paid by steel mills for obsolete scrap in February.

The same buying period saw prompt ferrous scrap grades retain their value, however, a disparity also made clear in Fastmarkets AMM survey-based pricing for the early February trading period.

The RMDAS figures released Feb. 20 summarizing the previous 31 days of trading activity, have the prompt industrial composites grade trading at an average of $500 in the United States, a full $100 higher than the $400 per ton average paid for shredded scrap, and $115 per ton more than was paid for No. 1 heavy melting steel (HMS) scrap.

Higher scale prices in December and January opened up the supply spigot, according to scrap processors and traders. Those same high prices, however, kept many overseas buyers of shredded and HMS scrap on the sidelines. This created the conditions for a February $60 per ton drop in shredded scrap’s value, and a $44 drop for HMS scrap.

Prompt grades did not suffer a similar fate because their supply is not price-sensitive and demand predominantly comes from U.S. electric arc furnace (EAF) mills, who remained in the market for the high-quality material.

The gulf between prompt grades, which fetched $505 ton in the RMDAS North Midwest region, to HMS scrap, which fell to an average $366 per ton in the South, seems poised to narrow in the early-March buying period, however.

On the supply side, winter weather ranging from snowbound portions of the Northeast to unusual amounts of ice and snow in Texas has combined with lower scale prices to rein in the temporary obsolete scrap boom.

At times in mid- and late February, U.S. weather maps showed snow and ice holding most of the North American landmass, other than the Florida peninsula, in its grip. A West Coast processor told Recycling Today in mid-February, “Flow has been good, but we’ve been hit pretty hard by inclement weather and that will slow things down for a bit. There is still room to improve as flows are still down from our averages before the pandemic.”

Lower Fastmarkets AMM February No. 1 HMS and shredded index pricing, at the same time, has reportedly brought overseas buyers back into the North American scrap market.

The last week of February has started out with reports in Fastmarkets AMM and Davis Index pointing to increased bulk cargo interest from Turkey and post-Lunar New Year scrap buying from Vietnam and Taiwan. Davis Index says Turkish buyers are finding that sellers in the U.S. and elsewhere are declining initial bids “as they believe scrap prices” will rise by from $10 to $30 per metric ton.