2023 Scrap Metal Market Summary & Predictions for 2024

The scrap metal industry has seen its fair share of ups and downs in a year marked by economic shifts, global events, and evolving consumer demands. In our comprehensive overview of the 2023 Scrap Metal Market, we discuss the dynamics of five essential metals, offering insights into the driving factors that shaped the prices of the past year. We will also share our eagerly anticipated predictions for 2024 and forecast any potential trends that may define the upcoming year. We have also provided a video for each section that goes into further detail should you want to stay informed.

Non-Ferrous Scrap News:

In copper scrap, 2023 defied initial concerns as prices demonstrated surprising resilience, holding above $4/lb, while many predicted it would tank to below $3/lb. Despite a slight dip in the demand for copper and brass, there was some influence from some of the smaller residential projects. While the dip in oil prices did help copper, the overall volume was not as substantial as in 2022.

As we move into 2024, we are waiting to see what happens with Green energy and EV production and whether the contractions we’re seeing will be short or long-term. We are also unsure whether consumer debt will continue to accrue and slow down the rate at which new electronic devices are needed. Due to these rising mortgage and interest rates, the demand for large amounts of copper in the commercial sector will likely slow down coming into 2024.

Challenging Terrain for Aluminum Scrap This Year

Aluminum, as a whole, was slightly underwhelming this year. That said, they were considerably steady considering the auto worker strike, mines opening and closing, and interest rates being all over the place; they could have been much worse. While many automakers continue to electrify, the demand should remain coming into 2024. The Ukraine conflict also strained aluminum prices back in 2022, and it seems like prices haven’t recovered from those slumps.

Ferrous Scrap News:

Steel Prices have been Forged in Challenges

The Steel Market for 2023 was really the theme of most markets for the year. Interest rates, the upcoming election, and oil prices greatly affected the dynamics of steel prices. While the year started strongly with China relaxing its COVID policies, which breathed life into a slow market, the rest of the year petered out and only gained momentum in Q4 due to decreasing oil prices. The railway and auto worker strike definitely did no favors to the market either. Luckily, Steel is a worldwide commodity that isn’t going anywhere, but our prediction for 2024 is that it will likely stay where it is and potentially slow down.

Catalytic Converter Recycling News:

Cautious Optimism and Game-Changing Shifts for PGM’s

Market conditions mirrored predictions in a year that didn’t meet expectations as prices remained somewhat subdued. The decreased sale of automobiles directly impacted the demand for catalytic converters, leading to cautious optimism for 2024. The rise of electric vehicles and alterations made to precious metal usage (particularly with Rhodium) in converters signaled potential challenges ahead.

Earth Metals:

Rare Earth Metals Are Turbulent Amidst Electrification

We discuss the market fluctuations of Rare Earth Metals and, in particular, touch on nickel, carbide, and lead.

The unique dynamics of Nickel used in stainless steel and medical applications present a potential game-changer for EV manufacturers. Their strength this past year has been that unlike PGMs, which are generally only present in one industry, Nickel is highly malleable in that it can be used in all those different industries, which means the demand will always be there.

Unfortunately, Lead did not have a great year, and our predictions for 2024 are to expect it to get even worse. As the world moves away from lead-acid batteries and over to lithium-ion and the like, expect to see these prices fall even further.

With Carbide, much like Steel, the lack of significant commercial and industrial demand hurt the market. Due to the lack of worldwide growth in nearly every metal, these specialty metals are sure to follow suit.

Wrapping Up The Year

While overall, 2023 was pretty flat, market demand was there. Moving into 2024, common threads of cautious optimism, resilience, and adaptability weave through the predictions for each metal. The main plot points we are all holding our breath on will be:

  • The upcoming US Presidential Election and any large projects they may be promising.
  • Current Oil Prices
  • Where are the current global conflicts?
  • Interest Rates
  • Consumer Demands

While these are more general issues, they play a critical role in our commodities market. As a result, there is a chance that we may see a slowdown across all metals going into 2024. As we brace for the challenges and opportunities that 2024 may bring, staying informed and adaptable will be key in navigating the ever-evolving world of scrap metal markets.