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ISRI
Friday Report
 
As you know we have our weekly report on Mondays that is short and sweet as they say.  With that ISRI has a much more detailed report that I wanted to pass along

So when the week starts out with headlines such as “Commodity prices head for 13-year low” (Financial Times, 7/20) and “Investors Flee Commodities” (Wall Street Journal, 7/20), chances are it’s not going to be a great week in the commodity and scrap markets, and so it was. Continued excess supply (anotherFinancial Times headline this week: “Record BHP iron ore output beats forecasts”) and cooling Chinese demand put additional downward pressure not only on commodity prices but on commodity exporter currencies as well. As one example, the US dollar was briefly buying a remarkable $1.31 Canadian late this week and the greenback appreciated against other commodity-dependent currencies including Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Russia. Reflecting the broad weakness across the commodities spectrum, the Bloomberg Commodity Index lost ground in 3 of the first 4 trading sessions of the week. In New York, crude oil futures dropped below $48/bbl this week – as compared to levels around $95/bbl one year ago. One could reasonably argue that the cheaper oil prices should spur consumer spending, but the sharp drop-off in oil and other commodity prices over the last year is not exactly a vote of confidence in the health of the global economy, and China is still at the top of the list of investor concerns. More on China below but suffice it to say the slowdown in China and deteriorating commodity outlook are weighing heavily on the global scrap marketplace.
This Issue of the Friday Report is Sponsored By…
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In This Issue
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Week in Review
On Friday, Markit Economics reported that the Caixin (formerly HSBC) flash China manufacturing PMI dropped from 49.4 in June to 48.2 in July, remaining below the 50-level threshold separating growth from contraction and marking a 15-month low. Commodity markets reacted according with the Bloomberg Commodity Index down more than 1% as energy and metal prices were pressured lower early on. In Shanghai, most actively traded SHFE copper settled 1.6% lower today and copper prices would post early losses in London and New York as well before stabilizing late in the day. COMEX Sep copper traded as low as $2.3505/lb. today before recovering to around $2.38/lb. – small comfort for copper market participants that have seen prices continue to erode from levels around $3.20-$3.25/lb. this time last year. In London, base metals ended the day mixed with LME 3-mo. copper and aluminum last trading around $5,268/mt and $1,645/mt, respectively, while nickel, lead and zinc prices lost ground. After having started the week above $1,815/mt, LME 3-mo. lead traded as low as $1,700/mt before retracing a portion of the day’s losses to climb back above $1,720/mt this afternoon. On Wall Street, the Dow Industrials were down 0.9% this afternoon as stocks headed for their fourth straight loss while the yield on 10-year Treasury notes slipped below 2.26%. At least it’s Friday.
 
 
Macro
In the U.S., the economic calendar was pretty light this week (and sorry to our Monday Report readers who got a paragraph in this week’s report that unhelpfully previewed last week’s events, our apologies), but there were some surprisingly positive news. The week’s report on initial unemployment claims showed new claims improbably dropped to the lowest seasonally adjusted level (255,000) since the 1970’s. While we try not to make too much out of one data point, it’s not often that we can report the best reading for an indicator since 1973 (see chart below). 
 
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In other U.S. news, existing home sales reportedly improved to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million in June (offsetting a disappointing reading on new home sales, which slipped to 482,000), while the Conference Board reported a healthy 0.6% increase in the U.S. index of leading economic indicators (LEI). According to Ataman Ozyildirim, the Conference Board’s Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research, “The upward trend in the US LEI seems to be gaining more momentum with another large increase in June pointing to continued strength in the economic outlook for the remainder of the year.” Unfortunately, investors today are more concerned that 1) positive U.S. news will encourage the Fed to raise rates sooner rather than later, putting the brakes on equity market gains in particular and 2) Chinese demand is falling faster than output,  contributing to global deflationary pressures and weaker global growth overall. Numbers out this week appear to confirm the slowdown in China’s manufacturing sector with Markit Economics reporting the Caixin flash China manufacturing PMI dropped to a 15-month low of 48.2 in July. At the same time the flash China manufacturing output index fell to a 16-month low of 47.3, also not necessarily good news for commodity prices or scrap demand. As previously reported, the dollar value of U.S. exports of all scrap commodities (including scrap metals, paper, plastic, etc.) to China through May were down 12% as compared to Jan-May 2014, representing a loss in export sales in excess of $350 million.
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Ferrous
According to figures released from the World Steel Association this week, Chinese crude steel production during Jan-Jun 2015 declined 1.3% as compared to the first half of 2014 to around 410 million metric tons, contributing to the 2.0% decrease in world steel output so far this year. More worrying is that Chinese steel demand will contract faster than output, with officials from the China Iron and Steel Association quoted as saying earlier in the year that Chinese steel demand could decrease 6% in 2015, leaving more material available for export. Other important markets for ferrous scrap exporters have witnessed even sharper contractions in crude steel output this year including Turkey (-4.3%), Taiwan (-4.6%) and South Korea (-4.9%), while steel output in the U.S. was down 8.6% in the first half of 2015 according to the worldsteel figures. The slowdown in Asian steel production and ferrous scrap demand has reportedly taken a heavy toll on West Coast export prices, with The Steel Index reporting West coast shredded prices have plunged by around $60 per gross ton since June, although a recent uptick in Turkish buying activity helped to support East coast export tags, TSI reports.
 
Looking into August, lackluster domestic steel production and uneven overseas scrap demand are expected to feature prominently with Scrap Trends Outlook’s August indicator signaling bearish at 45.7 and especially so for frag grades (30.0), cut grades (31.6) and foundry grades (32.1). SDI’s president and CEO Mark Millet would seem to agree with the bearish short-term scrap outlook and was quoted as saying inAMM this week that “we don’t see any significant drivers for a scrap price increase in the near future,” adding the difficult market conditions could lead to further consolidation.   
Nonferrous
As with other commodities, China remains the focus of attention for nonferrous metals. One of our favorite analysts, Ed Meir of INTL FC Stone, was quoted this week as saying “certainly in the base metals space, the culprit behind the recent selloff has to be the fact that China’s voracious appetite for metals seems to be moderating or even declining in many cases,” which is pretty much all you need to know. According to figures released from the International Copper Study Group earlier this week, Chinese apparent demand for refined copper during Jan-Apr 2015 declined 5% (-165,000 mt) year-on-year “…based on a 14% decrease in net imports of refined copper” and contributing to a 4% decrease in world apparent copper usage through April. Even with this year’s supply disruptions, the Study Group estimates world refined copper production exceeded demand by around 62,000 metric tons during Jan-Apr 2015, as compared to a 436,000 mt copper supply deficit during Jan-Apr 2014.
 
Slowing Chinese growth and excess production are not limited to copper, of course, and the latest primary aluminum production figures from the International Aluminum Institute show that reported Chinese aluminum output increased from 13.2 million tons in the first half of 2014 to more than 15.6 million tons in the first half of 2015 (not including unreported Chinese production). As China keeps pumping out excess aluminum and as LME aluminum warehouse stocks have dropped from more than 4.9 million metrics tons this time last year to around 3.48 million tons currently, it’s not surprising that aluminum prices in particular have come under pressure lately. As of this morning, the LME official 3-mo. asking price for aluminum was down to $1,639/mt (or about 74 cents/lb.), a decrease of nearly 12% since the end of 2014. And whileFastmarkets reports that despite the summer lull, the US Midwest aluminum premium has stabilized around 8.25-8.75 cents as “premiums {are} underpinned by high freight costs,” AMM reports aluminum scrap prices are tracking primary prices lower, with secondary prices listed at 54-56 cents for old sheet, 55-57 cents for painted siding, 57-59 cents for MLC and 58-60 cents for old cast.
ISRI Eye on Equities
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This Week’s Quote
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