The US government is trying to pass a very large infrastructure bill, with Democrats and Republicans trying to collaborate for the greater good. We will see if they are able to work together to pass some sort of compromise legislation.
US GDP growth for the first quarter was 6.4%, slightly ahead of government estimates. But the most recent employment figures disappointed the markets, with fewer people going back to work than expected - and by a large margin.
The USA is seeing a reduction in COVID infections and fatalities, as well as rising vaccination numbers despite rates having plateaued. Government and medical professionals are trying to determine how best to overcome some degree of hesitancy and convince everybody to take the vaccine. At the time of writing, just under half the population has had at least one jab, with a little more than one-third fully vaccinated.
More businesses are reopening but many are struggling to hire staff. Very severe labour shortages are hampering this reopening and keeping manufacturers from increasing their build rates. The USA is also experiencing very severe trucking issues, most recently related to the hacked oil pipelines that supply the east of the country.
Metal prices are at historic or multi-year highs. The higher terminal markets have not yet translated into wider spreads for all primary aluminium scrap as most of this material is in very tight supply. The all-in price for US primary aluminium has climbed close to 20% since March, while the increase in the regional Midwest premium of more than US$ 150 per tonne in the last two months has been attributed to very tight primary supply, high freight rates and the continuation of tariffs on aluminium imports.
There is still very strong demand and spreads for profile scrap and most rolling mill alloys, although the spreads for UBCs are now starting to widen. Secondary aluminium prices have recently stalled as issues persist in the auto supply chain that are weighing on production levels. Ingot and scrap prices have flatlined in the last month or so.
Copper spreads have widened, especially on the less pure grades. Scrap for brass ingot-makers is becoming somewhat tighter.
Export activity is still a challenge with spotty container shortages and limited transportation services.
Shapiro Metals (USA), Board Member of the BIR Non-Ferrous Metals Division