LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Demand for industrial metals looks set to improve in 2010 as Asian buying forges on, but the industry remains on tenterhooks to see if OECD demand will also pick up, according to the Bureau of International Recycling.
Members of the BIR said in a report last week they are broadly confident industrial metals prices will be supported as Asian countries continue to soak up material, while the outlook for Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries is less clear.
"During the final two weeks of 2009, all commodity values increased 10 percent or more and this momentum seems to have carried forward into 2010," said David Chiao of Uni-All Group, and board member of the BIR Non-Ferrous Metals Division.
"The general belief is that this upward trend will continue until the Chinese New Year in February."
But sentiment is capped by evidence that Western demand for primary and secondary material is still subdued.
"European demand for aluminium remains very weak, with some of the low to middle-grade scrap going to Asia," said Joachim Muscinesi of Epur in France, a board member of the BIR non-ferrous metals division.
He said the situation for zinc is similar, while Europe's soft lead scrap consumers are showing no real buying interest.
Muscinesi added that a large proportion of copper scrap remains in Europe but increasing demand has emerged from Asia at rising prices.
"Even though some of Europe's brass ingot-makers are keen to purchase scrap, they cannot compete with Far and Middle East buying prices," he said.
As many regional markets around the world remain in a seasonally quiet period, members said it is still too early to know if Western demand is truly picking up.
"The next quarter will certainly test whether we are really on the road to recovery or not," said Andy Wahl of Newell Recycling of Atlanta Inc and Vice-President of the BIR Non-Ferrous Metals Division.