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JULY 2006


American Recycler Masthead


Scrap copper prices stay strong 

Volatility in the market may signal changes ahead for scrap copper recyclers.

“I don’t see how prices are supported at the current level,” said John Mothersole, senior economist for Global Insight Inc. Mothersole tracks copper for the research firm in Washington D.C. “There’s going to be a change in the market,” Mothersole said.

Prices for copper hit $8,700 a metric ton during May and fell below $8,000 within a couple of days. The markets quickly rebounded above $8,000. “It suggests that even the copper bulls in the market are getting a little nervous given price levels today. There really isn’t underlying support for these fantastic price levels,” Mothersole said.

What does this mean for scrap copper recyclers? The price for new copper on the international exchanges was up about 150 percent year over year in May. Scrap copper prices tend to move almost in lock step with copper prices. “The extraordinary price increases that we’ve seen in copper are fully reflected in scrap,” Mothersole said.

“Copper market fundamentals are very good right now in the sense that inventory is low and we have seen good consumption growth,” Production continues to increase to meet global demand. “Although fundamentals are good, they’re not as good as what would be suggested by the fantastic run in prices that we’ve seen,” Mothersole said.

Economic models show a small surplus of copper this year, which would suggest a building of inventory, Mothersole said. “I just don’t see how price levels continue to be supported at this level, if in fact we begin to see an inventory build,” Mothersole said. more


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