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Japan

In October, the exchange rate hit Yen 151.94 to the US dollar for the first time in 34 years before returning below Yen 140 in early December owing to the slower pace of US interest rate hikes. This big swing has heavily affected the Japanese economy and trading. Meanwhile, Japan’s commodity price index increased to 2.8% in August; if this pushes local wages, it may create a good economic cycle for getting out of the slump of the last three decades.

With copper scrap exports falling below 30,000 tonnes per month for four consecutive months, shipments to China accounted for more than half of the total. Large volumes of cable scrap have been sourced by local Chinese-origin processors for further sale to mainland China.

Total copper scrap imports for the first nine months of 2022 were higher than for the whole of 2021, and this trend is believed to have continued. Comparing the same period to January-September 2021, domestic copper mill product sales fell 2.5% to 552,919 tonnes, due mainly to lower demand from the electronics industry.

Good demand from aluminium alloy producers has kept the local scrap market tight, supported by the strong LME price. Production at rolling mills has yet to recover fully.

While approximately one-third of exported SUS stainless scrap, mainly 400 series, went to India in September, no exports were seen to South Korea. Although local demand is limited, the preference is for 304 to remain in Japan in order to take advantage of the relatively strong prices.