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Omicron infection rates are increasing sharply at the time of writing and priority measures have been implemented again in major Japanese cities. Meanwhile, parts shortages have continued to lead to temporary shutdowns at some vehicle and semiconductor plants. And inflation has started to be seen for the first time in several decades in Japan, creating anxiety as to how this will impact the domestic economy.

Copper scrap exports to China reached 18,000 tonnes in November last year while those to Malaysia remained around 5000 tonnes. Exporters of low-grade copper scrap are anxiously waiting to see how strictly the new import rules are followed by customs officials. There is a continuing market imbalance given strong demand from domestic rolling mills and reduced scrap generation.

Despite strong LME prices, domestic demand for aluminium scrap is weak owing to cutbacks by vehicle manufacturers as a result of the parts shortage. Imports of ADC12 reached 11,000 tonnes in November last year, supported by a wider range of supplies from emerging countries such as Nigeria and Malaysia.

In the stainless steel market, the tightness in SUS scrap is easing owing to lower production by domestic mills despite the rising LME nickel price. Scrap availability remains tight and export volumes are falling.