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Consensus developing over an April ‘adjustment’

By Bill Beck - March 27, 2017

As spring gets underway in earnest across much of North America, consensus seems to be developing that the April ferrous scrap market will see an adjustment after a red-hot March.

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 average mill capacity utilization rate between January 2016 and March 2017. Although this is a lower average than was seen during the first years of the recovery from the recession, it is a number that has finally begun to move upward after 2-3 years of relatively flat results. Demand for steel in early 2017 is still pushing the number higher.


The Scrap Trends Outlook index number for six months from now shows that despite some worries about the overall economy and specific mill demand, players in the market are confident about the future. Most respondents expect prices in September to be higher than where they sit today, which would make 2017 a strong year.


Millions of tonnes of scrap that mills and foundries purchased from brokers and dealers in the open market in 2016. Although this figure was down from 42 million tonnes in 2015 and is one of the lowest since the modern all-time low of 39 million tonnes in 2009, demand began to rally in the 4th quarter last year and has carried over into early 2017.

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

Prime Grades

March Review
March Review
March outlook:
Bullish (75.4)
March's actual change:
Busheling: + $65/22% 
Bundles: + $65/22% 

Cut Grades

March Review
March Review
March outlook:
Bullish (76.1)
March's actual change:
No. 1 HM: + $37/15% 
P&S: + $37/14% 

Frag Grades

March Review
March Review
March outlook:
Bullish (74.9)
March's actual change:
Shred: + $42/15% 

Foundry Grades

March Review
March Review
March outlook:
Bullish (80.0)
March's actual change:
Punchings: + $48/9% 
Misc. Foundry: + $51/12% 

10 Things to Watch

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A question remains over how strongly Turkey will be back in the market; as of mid-March no one knew
Supplies could stay near current levels or even grow
Demand is growing for scrap, but not too rapidly
Service center demand is expected to be relatively flat

General economic signs remain mixed, unpredictable
Mill raw steel output capacity utilization rates were rising again in mid-March after stronger levels earlier
Mill scrap inventory and home scrap levels are higher
Mills may continue to put downward pressure on prices
Transportation may work against dealers this month
Historically, prices are slightly stronger in April

Notable Quotes about Next Month

" Correction coming. The spread between prime and obsolete/cut cannot grow, so all grades will drop. I don’t think it will be precipitous – maybe $20-$25."
" Not sure all the scrap that was bought is actually being delivered. Weather has driven down intake to a crawl and it is challenging trying to deliver scrap."
" Assuming demand stays steady, which it should, prices will remain the same due to limited supply."
" Cut grades are still in short supply. Hopefully demo jobs and scrap supply will pick up."
" Some mills were still hunting for certain types mid-month."
" Increased volume is harder to find."