Copper and Brass Red Metal Scrap Recovery

The value of primary copper, and thus copper and brass scrap, has fallen from some of the peak prices it reached earlier this decade and in the previous decade.

Following several years of sluggish copper markets, however, 2017 might finally be when a long-expected recovery takes hold, according to scrap dealers, copper producers and other observers in the industry.

Despite this agreement that 2017 will be a year of recovery, copper pricing might still be volatile, though most sources say it is highly unlikely that prices will fall as low as they did in early 2016.

China remains the largest consumer of copper and copper scrap, accounting for roughly 45 percent of world demand.

The relative health of the Chinese economy will drive copper and copper scrap markets in 2017.

In its report for the third quarter of 2016, the ICSG says Chinese apparent demand for copper increased by roughly 7 percent over the first nine months of 2016 based on a 2 percent increase in net imports of refined copper and 7 percent growth in refined production.

The most recent data released by the Chinese General Administration of Customs show the country imported 49 million tons of unwrought copper and copper materials in December 2016, close to a 30 percent increase from the prior month.

On the production side, the ICSG reports a deficit of 15,000 metric tons of refined copper in September 2016, which followed a surplus of 156,000 metric tons the prior month.

Supporting the optimistic view of copper markets in the near term is Germany-based Aurubis, one of the largest copper scrap consumers in the world and perhaps the largest in Europe.

Economic indicators are pointing upward around the world, and the emerging markets in particular are benefiting from higher commodity prices.” Despite its cautionary tone, Aurubis says the global market is deficient in copper, while demand for the metal increased by 3 percent.

Global copper production showed a deficit of 84,000 metric tons, while demand increased by 565,000 metric tons, Aurubis’ “Copper Mail” notes.

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