CLEVELAND - While scrap paper prices have fallen this year due to a bad export market and downtime at mills, 1997, comparatively, was a good year, says Ken McEntee, editor and publisher of The Paper Stock Report, a bi-weekly publication that analyzes scrap paper markets.
A late summer price increase for recovered scrap paper pushed end-of 1997 prices up 13.8 percent compared to the start of the year, according to "1997 Scrap Paper Prices: Paper Mill Buying Prices," Paper Stock's annual summary.
The average price paid by paper and paperboard mills for 18 commonly traded grades in five regions at the beginning of 1997 was $80.19 per ton. By the end of that year, the average had increased to $91.31 per ton.
Scrap paper prices peaked in late August at $91.58 per ton and remained steady for the rest of the year. June was a low-point - the average price dropped to $77.46 per ton - according to the report.
Prices for old, corrugated containers (OCC), which comprise the majority of scrap paper recovered in the United States, increased 24.4 percent through 1997, ending the year at $76.50 per ton.
However, since March 1998, OCC prices have continued to fall. Northeast prices were being reported as low as $45 per ton through mid-April, McEntee says.
"The export market is really bad," he continues. "When you take export out of the equation, there is a bigger supply in the U.S., which drives prices down. Secondly, downtime at mills is continuing."
According to McEntee, high grade paper prices tend to follow the pulp market, which still is weak.