Macro-conditions in India would suggest that it has been all sunshine and rainbows here since the new financial year started in April. Foreign portfolio investors have pumped a record amount of dollars into equities over the last month, making this country the best-performing market in Asia. Inflation looks to be cooling off and interest rates are already at their peak. Lower oil prices have brought an improvement in the current account deficit, pushing foreign exchange reserves within striking range of US$ 600 billion. According to conservative estimates, a 6% growth trajectory is being predicted for this fiscal period, which looks impressive on a relative scale.
However, the big question is whether India can defy the global headwinds which are pointing to an overall slowdown. On the micro level, furthermore, the euphoria has not really percolated down to every sector: automotive sales dropped by an average of 4% in April; similarly, imports/exports of merchandise and services shrank by some 7 to 8% year on year in March.
As for our industry, output of die-casting grade ingots has been curtailed by around 20% this year as traditional export markets are not hungry. Also, international scrap prices for Zorba, Tense, etc. have not yet factored the industrial slowdown into their pricing. A similar situation applies to brass, with sluggish offtake of downstream products. The secondary copper market has found some traction as primary producers using mined resources are currently adopting scrap-refined ingots to upgrade their mix. Overall, it has been a decidedly baseline play in the last five to six weeks.
Regarding Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) implementation for scrap metals, discussions between the Material Recycling Association of India and the government continue to find differences on definitions and procedures. One of the key reasons for this is interference by primary producers who want these standards to work as non-tariff barriers against the secondary industry. But by creating impediments to scrap flows and usage, this will directly hurt the government’s decarbonization and sustainability agenda. So we hope that logic and rationality will prevail and that the standards ultimately introduced will be operationally conducive for our industry.
Finally, something to cheer for India: in the last three months, lithium-containing mineral deposits have been found in two states. Based on early recovery estimates, these could make India completely self-sufficient in lithium and thus add extra momentum to some of its sustainability and green transition programmes.