Alex Antikides of Pan Global Resources in Weybridge suggested a switch to the euro could occur once the currency had been adopted by the European Unions 10 new members and by the three established union members who have so far declined to enter the eurozone the UK, Sweden and Denmark. The move was likely in the longer run, he implied, because the euro was considered by many to be less volatile than the US dollar.
The speech was timely coming just two days before the existing 15 EU states joined the union. And to help put EU enlargement into context for the largely American audience, Antikides explained that the new 25-strong union would outstrip the US in a number of scrap-related areas. For example, annual EU steel output would be almost exactly double that of the US at 181 million tonnes, while EU scrap consumption would be some 33m tonnes higher at around 90m tonnes. EU and US scrap exports would be 10.5m and 9.4m tonnes respectively, while the EUs annual scrap imports would again be almost double those of the US at around 8m tonnes.
Antikides also noted that many of the new EU member states were significant exporters of scrap. According to statistics for the whole of 2003, Poland exported 991,000 tonnes, the Czech Republic 989,000 tonnes, Hungary 386,000 tonnes and Slovakia 265,000 tonnes. The total for Lithuania was 271,000 tonnes, although the figure constituted mainly trans-shipped material of Russian origin.
Antikides expressed strong support for free trade in scrap and spoke of the tremendously bad influence of export restrictions on the Ukraines domestic industry. And he predicted that ferrous scrap prices would rebound from their recent falls sooner rather than later.
Confidence in a ferrous scrap price recovery was also voiced by another of the meetings guest speakers. John Ferriola, executive vice president of steel-maker Nucor, said: I believe there will be a rebound although perhaps not to the levels seen in the recent past. He spoke of a perfect storm in the ferrous scrap sector characterised by increased demand and reduced supply of steel and scrap, with the prices of both having risen independently.
The speaker suggested that the recent temporary lull in the ferrous scrap market owed much to Chinas reduced buying activity. The countrys influence on global trade could barely be over-emphasised, he said. The country now represented a wild card for steel sector analysts since a change in its buying policy would be guaranteed to impact on world markets as quickly as that decision has been made.
The Spotlight on Ferrous meeting was one of a number devoted to specific commodities at an ISRI Convention and Exposition, which attracted more than 3,000 delegates the highest number since 2000 and a clear indication of the strength of most of the metal markets.
At the Spotlight on Nickel/Stainless session, speakers highlighted a trend in certain countries notably India towards increased production of 200 series stainless steels in which nickel content can be as low as 1%.
Barry Waters, director of Nickel Use Support and Development at the Toronto-based Nickel Institute, noted a prediction that 200 series products could account for 17% of world stainless steel production by the year 2010, compared to 10% last year and just 6% in 2001.
The meeting heard that 200 series materials are currently claiming a 75% share of Indias stainless steel production although Europe, by contrast, produced none last year.
Volatile emerged as one of the words of the week in Las Vegas and nowhere was it used more widely than in the Spotlight on Copper meeting. Dav