US steel scrap price analysis October 2022

US steel scrap prices are experiencing historic highs — but as the market stabilizes, will the spread between busheling over shredded continue to widen beyond historical averages in 2023?

US steel scrap prices still have room to decline in the fourth quarter of 2022 and then will stabilize until the seasonal uptick in the first quarter of 2023. Domestic steelmakers are running at rates below 80% and current maintenance and outage plans indicate the lower rate will persist through the coming months.

Meanwhile, steel scrap availability is high, with many facilities holding high unused stocks from previous purchases. Moreover, the outlook for automotive production is for an increase in light vehicle production through the second half of 2022, over the first half of the year, translating to greater flows of prime steel scrap to the market.

Steel scrap supplies are expected to seasonally tighten late in the first quarter as flows are restricted by winter weather. We belive that the premium of busheling over shredded will widen again in 2023, beyond the historical average:

  • Increased light vehicle production through the second half of 2022 over the first half of the year will increase availability for prime steel scrap
  • Shredded steel scrap pricing has held up better than that of busheling amid ample busheling supplies; nevertherless, we expect shred pricing to post steeper cuts this month than bushelling and return the premium to the prime grade
  • Shredder feed is accumulating while automotive output, and its supply of prime steel scrap, is strengthening in H2 over H1

Given the uncertainty in downstream steel demand, it is more likely that steel prices could report another slide before the end of the year — further impacting profit margins in these markets.

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