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Non-ferrous metals - 2 November 2012

Metal markets had reportedly started to lift with the news that the New York trading floors would reopen following hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the US east coast.

London Metal Exchange (LME) copper prices had drifted lower in the early part of the week. By the time MRW went to press, they had started to pick up, although reports suggested prices were likely to be oversold.

With mid-week copper trading around $7,760 (£4,820) per tonne, scrap merchants were wary of how strong the market was likely to recover. Scrap copper prices came off by an average £100 per tonne for most grades.

During the month, primary lead prices have been on the decline, but by mid-week this was slowing. Even though prices were down 8% on the month, the price for lead on the LME had crept up to $2,058 per tonne. This week, scrap lead prices were down £50 to £850-£900 per tonne.

Lead battery prices remained low and unchanged. Traders reported that volumes of batteries collected had been on the increase in October and dampened current prices. Demand for replacements is expected to lift prices during the winter.

While there was a hint of primary tin prices picking up, scrap tin remained poor. Down to £10,865 per tonne for 99%, tin is already 8% lower than the start of October.

Nickel prices remained under pressure, and traders report that the markets are “doom and gloom”, with weakening market demand dampening prices.

Low growth and poor forecasts are piling pressure on the stainless steel home markets. As a result, scrap prices contracted further: 18/8 stainless steel solids were down £100 per tonne while 18/8 turnings fell by £60 per tonne.     

Pure nickel solids posted the largest fall this week, down £400 per tonne to £7,020 per tonne.

UK aluminium ingot prices were sharply down across the board. LM2 and LM6 fell the most, dropping £60 per tonne to £1,420 and £1,690 respectively; LM4 was down to £1,625 from £1,650 per tonne; LME 24 dropped £20 per tonne to £1,430; LM25 was £1,680 per tonne from £1720; and LM27 dropped £50 per tonne to trade at £1,530 per tonne.        

UK scrap aluminium prices are still too high for most ingot producers to trade at anything like profitable levels. While some of the higher grades may see further decreases, die casters are warning that the lower grades cannot afford fall any further if they are to maintain any form of operating profit.

Merchants reported that trading conditions are likely to remain tough for the rest of the year.

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