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In February, Japan recorded its 19th consecutive month of trade deficit and the biggest in the second month of the year since 1979, due mainly to higher energy import costs. The Bank of Japan’s new Governor, Kazuo Ueda, has confirmed that the monetary easing policy will be kept in place; more than half of government bonds, amounting to US$ 30 trillion, have been bought by the bank.

The domestic No. 1 copper scrap market has become oversupplied owing to lower demand from rolling mills while two local smelters have shut for maintenance, forcing local scrap dealers to look to the export market and especially to China.

For aluminium, competition to secure material has become severe, partly driven by the strategy among consumers to increase the scrap share of their raw material portfolios. Some players have had no choice but to lose money in fulfilling their supply responsibilities.

One of the domestic stainless steel mills stopped taking scrap supplies in the second half of March and this has been pushing the nickel payable to around half of the metal price.