As we change seasons from summer to autumn, UK merchants are reporting that the non-ferrous scrap market is generally quiet. Overall availability of non-ferrous grades is tight. Unusually, this lack of supply is not increasing demand from metal consumers owing to the ongoing decline in global economic activity, particularly in the automotive industry. To ensure successful sales, quality of scrap is now the number one priority for UK non-ferrous merchants.
There is interest in purchasing copper scrap from consumers in both mainland Europe and the wider international markets, but limited volumes are available to purchase. Cable sales are still positive and availability from suppliers is reasonable. Brass prices and availability are good, although there is a feeling that prices are not fully reflecting the value of their intrinsic metals.
Despite aluminium usage having doubled in the past 20 years, scrap prices are in decline, partly due to changes in LME pricing. Primarily, however, end users are citing a lack of orders for secondary aluminium, meaning that they have reduced their prices regardless of LME movements.
Zinc prices have dropped, which is mainly the result of a fall in LME prices. In terms of both the LME and the scrap price, lead has held up well and supply/demand are relatively balanced.
LME prices continue to be affected by currency fluctuations, linked mainly to Brexit uncertainty. The second Brexit deadline of October 31 is fast approaching, and it continues to be a hot topic for debate and a cause for concern in the UK. A representative from the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy will be hosting a meeting at the offices of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) in October to discuss different elements of Brexit, including import and export procedures as well as employment of foreign nationals. BMRA members are welcoming this opportunity to obtain direct guidance from the government. The current thinking is that our trading with non-EU countries such as China will be unaffected but there may be new customs requirements for our exports to EU destinations.
Non-ferrous market prices are also being affected by the US/China trade war, US interest rate cuts and bans by China on imports of certain non-ferrous grades.
Recycled Products Ltd (GBR), Board Member of the BIR Non-Ferrous Metals Division