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United States

The USA is working through the latest COVID Delta variant surge, with cases now starting to decrease. With daily infection numbers at around 100,000 and deaths at just below 2000 per day, these figures are still the highest in the world but are trending downwards. Nearly two-thirds of the population has had at least one jab, with more than 50% having had both vaccinations. Booster shots are now being administered to those who have taken the Pfizer vaccine and are above a certain age. There is still a very large contingent of people who remain reluctant to accept vaccination, and most of the serious illness and deaths are being seen within this group.

The battle lines have been drawn in the most recent attempts to enact an infrastructure plan. Democrats cannot agree on the size of the programmes (US$ 1.5 to US$ 3.5 trillion over 10 years) while Republicans are watching the struggle from the sidelines with glee. The final package is expected to be much closer to the lower end of the quoted range. There is widespread support for a programme, with more than 80% of US citizens approving of some infrastructure spending.

The US economy is continuing to expand at a rapid pace, with GDP growth still above 6% for the year. A slowdown is expected for the third quarter owing to the resurgence in the spread of COVID, supply chain disruptions and ongoing labour shortages. Inflation concerns are weighing heavily on the marketplace, with the consumer price index at 5% or above since the second quarter.

The all-in primary aluminium price is now above US$ 3600 per tonne, with the regional premium hovering around a historic high of US$ 760. The elevated primary price has not had much of an effect on spreads for profile scrap or on other high-demand mill items. The recent spike in magnesium prices should keep 5xxx scrap spreads tight. Other rolling mill items are widening as the primary price has risen. Meanwhile, Russian and Chinese efforts to temper global commodity prices do not seem to have had much effect on the price of aluminium. Secondary ingot prices are continuing their gradual increase, up a few cents since the previous Mirror report. The unexpected price increase in global silicon and other inputs is likely to keep secondary ingots at recent levels, even in the face of reduced automotive production. Domestic secondary scrap prices are in the doldrums amid tepid demand owing to ongoing automotive chip shortages. Most new car lots are empty, with very little inventory to sell.

Copper spreads continue to be tight both domestically and for export as demand is very good across the board. There have been no major changes in brass prices as the market appears to remain in balance.

Export markets continue to be strong, with high-grade copper headed to China with very tight spreads. India is still actively buying aluminium scrap. Shipping costs and booking/container availability still represent a considerable challenge and there is nothing easy about exporting right now. West Coast ports are badly congested; drayage out of any of the ports is in tight supply.