Many metal grade prices crashed this week. Is this a warning to other materials?
On the back of fears over a weakening global economy, prices for many metals were down on the London Metal Exchange, and this pushed values lower for scrap.
These economic headwinds have yet to hit demand for paper and plastics to the same degree, but there is talk that it could happen. Others though expect prices to stay stable, and some even see conditions where prices could rise.
Overall though, the view in plastics and paper markets is that the way prices crashed suddenly for metals is unlikely to happen, but the likelihood is that there will be either a period of some stability or a gradual weakening.
The pound remained stable against the dollar at $1.22 and the euro was also stable at €1.16.
Despite the PRN/PERN being up by £15 per tonne, this didn’t seem to get passed on in trade this week.
For PET and HDPE bottles, prices were stable, suggesting a small underlying fall.
LDPE film actually came down a bit with demand softening from Europe. With virgin prices coming down, some buyers wanted to wait to see what is happening, and whether this will influence the recycled price. There is also talk that some are looking to buy in Asian finished recycled product that is cheaper than European because prices of it are starting to look unpalatable to manufacturers, even if they need recycled content due to plastic packaging taxes.
What is clear is that there is some resistances to ever increasing prices, and whether recent weeks were the market limit remains to be seen. But sentiment feels like the market for recycled plastics has peaked, and now the question is will prices start to fall.
With wholesale oil prices coming down just a little this week, the market is also monitoring this for this influence, especially if these start to come down more on the back of recession fears.
When talking about the market, people said there was no real change, but the overall data showed some slight weakening of prices for key grades.
Europe continues to drive demand, not just for mixed, but also for OCC too. There are differing views on how long this will last, with some expecting European demand to stay strong over summer, but others more pessimistic. Germany seemed to want to stock up as buyers panicked that potential gas rationing for industry, especially over winter, would mean that manufacturers would want to get as much product made now as possible.
Yet the reality is that gas rationing in response to Russia turning off gas supplies is likely to have negative economic consequences, not just for Germany, but for the European and world economy. Demand is likely to be hit, but much will depend on whether supply remains weak too.
Asian markets are definitely cooling, but it is also the case that when the right price is achieved or demand necessitates it, one of these buying nations steps in and drives the market.
Copper grades suffered most this week with prices dropping by around £775 per tonne typically. But no metals were immune from falling values.
Brass dropped by £300 per tonne, aluminium by £100 per tonne, stainless steel by £200 per tonne, and ferrous grades by £10 per tonne.
Metal markets have deep fears about the economic situation around the world, as well as Chinese demand with Covid restrictions continuing.
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