USA - Scrap metal suppliers cashing in on metal demand

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Triad scrap metal suppliers are riding a wave of record price increases, caused by higher worldwide demand for steel and the devalued dollar.

"We're at levels we've never seen before in the history of this business," said Keith Rosen, vice president of finance for Atlantic Scrap & Processing in Kernersville.

The price that shredding companies receive for ferrous scrap has doubled since Nov. 30, 2007, from $250 per gross ton to $505, according to current American Metal Market figures. Prices for other metals, including copper and aluminum, also have risen sharply.

When Rosen arrived at work one morning last week, scrap suppliers were lined up at the shredding center out to the street, waiting to sell junk cars and appliances.

"We have extended our operating schedule into the evening to keep up with purchases," Rosen said.

Junaid Ahmed, manager of Triad Auto Salvage in Winston-Salem, said the price he receives per hundred pounds for crushed cars has gone up about "100 percent" in the past year, from $5-$6 to $10-$12 per hundred pounds.

Triad Auto Salvage crushes about 100 vehicles purchased from auto auctions each month and sells them to shredding companies, including Atlantic Scrap. Each week, the company sends three or four loads of cars, weighing anywhere from 37,000 to 40,000 pounds, to the shredder, Ahmed said.

The higher proceeds for the crushed cars are allowing the auto salvage yard to add several storage buildings where it can house additional auto parts, Ahmed said.

Once the steel is shredded and sold to steel mills, it is melted down and recycled for domestic and international companies.

For years, U.S. companies have relied on domestic and international steel producers to fill demand. With the dollar's decline, U.S. companies are importing 60 to 70 percent less steel, according to industry figures -- and foreign companies are seeking to buy more at the more favorable exchange rates.