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Is Big River Steel another reason for optimism?

By Bill Beck - November 28, 2016

Attendees at AMM’s 10th Steel Scrap Conference in Chicago earlier this month were described as “a pretty bullish crowd.” Coming off a November market in which prices were up across North America, conference attendees could be forgiven for feeling that the ferrous scrap market has finally turned a corner.

Industry Survey of Factors Affecting the Upcoming Market

Imagine having advanced notice of what your allies, competitors, peers and clients are thinking about what's to come in each new monthly scrap market. Scrap Trends Outlook, delivers an exclusive look at where prices, supplies, demand and other factors may be heading. Each month, Scrap Trends Outlook gives you a chance to listen in on the emerging industry conversation about the upcoming scrap market and provides a comprehensive tool for buyers and sellers to gaze into an industry consensus of where the price and availability of scrap may be heading.

Numbers and Letters

A quick look at key points expected to affect next month's markets


Not a single survey respondent expects prices to fall next month – 94 percent say prices will be higher or much higher, while 6 percent believe a sideways or strong sideways market is possible. The strongest forecast is for gains in shredded value, although prime and cut grades are not far behind. Foundry scrap also may be strong.


After having their biggest month of the year in August, export scrap sales fell in September, although they remained at a level of more than 1 million tonnes. However, sellers say that October and November were stronger months, so that confidence is high heading into December that export demand will play a strong role in pushing prices.


Prices have not fallen across the board since December 2005, though they fell on some grades just two years ago. They have risen in part or full in nine of the past 10 Decembers. So overall historical data tend to point toward a market that is much more likely to rise or be sideways than to fall. Respondents are confident next month will rise.

Our Methodology

Scrap Trends Outlook Methodology: A numerical value is given to the overall trend for the upcoming month after all the survey results of a series of 15 indexes are calculated based on a weighted average. A number close to 50 will give a ‘sideways’ or ‘unchanged’ reading, while numbers above 50 will give a reading for a bullish trend. The closer to 100, the more likely it is that prices will trend upward. Conversely, a number below 50 will give a reading for a bearish trend. The closer to 0, the more likely it is that prices will trend downward. N/A means there were too few survey responses to publish a reliable figure.

Taking Account

A look at how Scrap Trends Outlook Index numbers for June stacked up against actual changes in last month's market.

Prime Grades

November Review
November Review
November outlook:
Bullish (51.9)
November's actual change:
Busheling: + $32/16% 
Bundles: + $32/16% 

Cut Grades

November Review
November Review
November outlook:
Bullish (60.8)
November's actual change:
No. 1 HM: + $32/18% 
P&S: + $12/6% 

Frag Grades

November Review
November Review
November outlook:
Bullish (56.4)
November's actual change:
Shred: + $32/16% 

Foundry Grades

November Review
November Review
November outlook:
Bullish (56.7)
November's actual change:
Punchings: + $3/1% 
Misc. Foundry: + $2/1% 

10 Things to Watch

Never miss what's going to happen in next month's ferrous scrap market again

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Just as during the past two months, local scrap supplies will be tight in January
Worsening weather could help strengthen scrap prices
Election results have many in market more upbeat

Mills continue to raise their finished steel prices

Historically, December prices tend to move upward
Transportation should not be a factor through holidays, although it may become one in early January
Mill orders are steady, creating scrap demand
The lagging 2016 export market could finish strong

Year-long market slump has scrap ready to rebound

The end of the holidays will decrease mill slowdowns

Notable Quotes about Next Month

" Demand for export should continue unabated. Exporters must increase prices based on current sales and domestic will have to increase prices
to draw scrap away from the piers."
" Scrap prices have run significantly lower and are disproportionately lower than steel pricing. Significant scrap price increases are necessary
to get scrap flowing again."
" Despite their efforts, mills were unsuccessful in securing raw material requirements this month."
" Supply is very limited, especially cut grades. Difficult to complete orders."
" Scrap is in short supply and we are heading into winter."
" Low inventory, higher demand."