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Is steel sector life imitating art…of politics?

By Bill Beck - May 2, 2016

Presidential candidate Donald Trump promises that he will “deal” with companies taking jobs offshore and foreign nations taking advantage of America’s naïve approach to free trade. Trump may share an outlook with the domestic steel industry, which is starting to see the fruits of a trade initiative it launched last year to stem the flow of imports into the U.S.

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


The percentage increase in ferrous export tonnage for February vs. January. After experiencing a nearly unprecedented drop at the start of 2016, export demand took a big step up in February before appearing to rise further in March. Still, numbers are at lows not seen since before the recession, and even stretching back at least a decade for some levels.


Prices are nearly just as likely to rise in a given May market as to fall. During the past 10 years, prices have fallen across the board four times, risen across the board three times, seen mixed results in two years and been an exact sideways once (which occurred last year). This year’s anticipated hikes will make that accounting as equal as possible.


An overwhelming percentage of respondents to this month’s survey expect prices to be sideways to up in May, while less than 1 percent expect price decreases. Of all responses, 30 percent anticipate a sideways to strong sideways market, while an additional 69 percent say grades will increase in value somewhat on stronger demand.

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 February stacked up against actual changes in last month's market.

Prime Grades

April Review
April Review
April outlook:
Bullish (67.9)
April's actual change:
Busheling: + $48/25% 
Bundles: + $48/26% 

Cut Grades

April Review
April Review
April outlook:
Bullish (71.2)
April's actual change:
No. 1 HM: + $48/28% 
P&S: + $45/24% 

Frag Grades

April Review
April Review
April outlook:
Bullish (76.5)
April's actual change:
Shred: + $53/26% 

Foundry Grades

April Review
April Review
April outlook:
Bullish (63.4)
April's actual change:
Punchings: + $45/11% 
Misc. Foundry: + $41/13% 

10 Things to Watch

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

Sign-up for the new free alert, 'Ten things to watch'  and we'll tell you what we're keeping an eye on for next month's ferrous scrap markets


Some mills may have bought too little for their needs in March and April, and may need to replenish stocks
Those reduced mill inventories could make an impact
Export demand from Turkey could be on the rebound
Weather may begin to approve significantly
Historically, May prices produce mixed results
By mid-April raw steel capacity utilization rates had continued their rise following the fall’s low points
Mill order books are still weaker than last year
The looming election cycle remains unpredictable
The long export slump may be winding down
The supply of scrap may be sufficient to meet needs

Notable Quotes about Next Month

" Pig iron prices are also spiking around the world ... The reduction in pig iron availability coupled with the trend in billet prices, scrap is set for strength."
" Tonnage is very difficult to find and export, combined with a weaker USD has made a tight market much tighter."
" Export has woken up and is demanding more scrap. Supply is not returning to the marketplace quick enough."
" Shortage of available inventory in dealer yards."
" Steel pricing is heading north and scrap shall follow."
" Flow will get better with prices increasing."
" With an anticipated price increase of $10 to $20 and holding there for two or three months, then settling back to current levels as a balance in supply and demand occurs."
" Warehouses are getting busier and are restocking. That may continue for the balance of the year and domestic mills will be busier as a result."
" It’s way too early to call, after all it is an election year and this could be one of the craziest we’ve seen."
" Supply and demand."