Selling (Going Short) Aluminum Futures to Profit from a Fall in Aluminum Prices

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Classroom | What is short-selling and how can I profit from a fall in stock prices? (Equity: Part 10)

Short-selling can be a risky but a profitable venture.

Part 10 of the Classroom deals with short-selling and explains how traders who have a negative view on stock can profit from a fall in its prices.

Whenever the market is falling, I hear about the term short-selling and short-sellers. Can you explain these terms?

Just like investors buy shares of a good company with the expectation that the price will go up in future, there is a category of market participants who may believe that the share price will fall in future. This could be either due to their negative view on the market or on the company. They could try to profit from this view by acting in a manner called as short selling. In this, the investor sells a stock today (at a higher price) and buys it in future (when the price falls in line with their expectation).

Please note that the selling can be done even if you don’t own the shares and hence the nomenclature ‘short’ indicating that you are short of these shares or that you don’t own them – still, you are selling.

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Traders who short sell shares are known as short sellers. In market parlance, they are also called bears.

Is short selling a riskier strategy compared to the conventional method of buying first and selling later?

Yes, the risks involved are higher because if the price rises instead of falling, then technically, your losses can be infinite. Whereas, when you are buying, your loss is limited to the value of purchases even if theoretically the price goes down all the way to zero. If you short sold a share at Rs 50 and the price rose to 500 for whatever reason, you are staring at a loss of Rs 450. But when you buy a stock for Rs 50, at worst you will lose Rs 50 if the stock price falls to 0, or stops trading altogether.

How can I short sell shares?

One can short sell shares by either using the derivative (futures and option) route or by using the Stock Lending and Borrowing Mechanism (SLBM). When you are short selling through the derivatives route, you don’t need to own the shares at the time of selling. In SLBM, you can borrow shares from somebody who owns them, and then sell those shares. Of course, there will be a cost for borrowing those shares and you will have to return the shares within a specified deadline.

Do I have to keep margin money with my broker when I am short selling shares?

How does one identify shares that can be short sold?

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You need to identify stocks where either the overall business conditions or the individual performance will most likely deteriorate going forward. Stocks, where the prices are rising without any corresponding improvement in operating performance, are ideal candidates for short selling.

But remember, just because a stock is overvalued does not mean that you will be able to make money by short-selling it. Sometimes an entire sector can be overvalued because the market has taken a fancy to it. When that happens, every single stock in that sector, irrespective of its fundamentals, will do well. This was seen during the technology rally in the late 90s, when stocks from the media, telecom and IT services sectors rose to unbelievable highs. Short sellers lost money for a long time before they were eventually proved right.

Then there are cases where promoters collude with stock manipulators and manage to keep the stock price high for a long time though the fundamentals don’t justify the price.

As John Maynard Keynes reportedly remarked: “Markets can stay irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”

What is short covering?

Buying the shares back after short selling them is called short covering. Basically, you are covering those shares in which you were ‘short’ means you did not own them at the time of selling.

When too many short sellers try to cover their short positions at the same time, it can spark a rally in that stock.

Another set of market participants might often try to ‘squeeze’ short sellers by pushing up the stock price. These market participants could be existing shareholders, promoters, management or some other market manipulators.

The strategy—also known as short squeeze—is to create panic among short sellers so that all of them rush to cover their short positions at the same time.

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Aluminum Recycling Prices: Aluminum Scrap Price per Pound + More

Short Answer: Aluminum scrap prices fluctuate regularly due to constant changes in the commodities market. Typically, you can expect aluminum prices to fluctuate between around $.50 to over $1 per pound. Aluminum is the most recycled metal on the planet due to its lightweight nature and widespread use in ordinary objects like beverage cans, food cans, and appliances. Below, we have the details of how aluminum prices are determined, where to find aluminum scrap, and how to sell your scrap aluminum.

Table of Contents

Historical Aluminum Prices per Pound

According to the Aluminum Association, Americans throw away more than $700 million worth of aluminum cans every year. Not only is recycling better for the environment, but the aluminum going to the landfill could instead be money in your pocket.

Scrap aluminum prices vary from a few cents from day to day with significant changes taking place over a monthly or yearly period. If you’re considering selling scrap aluminum, take a look at the daily chart as well as the historical data to determine if it is the best time to sell.

We’ve summarized some of the available information about aluminum prices below to give you the big picture overview of the prices ranges you can expect.

Historical Aluminum Prices

The average price for aluminum throughout 2020 fluctuated between $2,200 and $1,900 per ton (which translates to around $1.10 to $0.95 per pound). As of September 2020, the price is hovering at just below $1,800 per ton.

  • Five-year (2020):
    • High: $1.15 per pound
    • Low: $0.73 per pound
    • Average: $0.92 per pound
  • 10-year (2008-2020):
    • High: $1.53 per pound
    • Low: $0.66 per pound
    • Average: $0.99 per pound
  • 20-year (1998-2020):
    • High: $1.53 per pound
    • Low: $0.59 per pound
    • Average: $0.93 per pound

What Factors Affect Aluminum Scrap Prices?

The historical data above shows different prices per pound for aluminum throughout time. Aluminum, like copper, steel, and coal, is a commodity. Its pricing is determined by five main factors affecting commodities: demand, supply, government trade policies, the value of the U.S. dollar, and investment fund value. With these factors in constant flux, the per-pound value of aluminum is also subject to change regularly.

For the most current prices, you can visit InvestmentMine’s one week chart, which shows the weekly trend of aluminum prices to help you gauge the peak time to sell. Remember that scrap yards likely won’t pay you the full market value of your aluminum haul; you’ll typically be offered around 30% to 50% of the current price per pound. Be sure to factor that in when you’re determining how much you expect to make with your scrap aluminum.

You can also examine the World Bank’s price forecasts for aluminum. World Bank maintains forecasts for a wide variety of commodity markets.

Where to Find Aluminum Scrap

The most widely available source of aluminum scrap is wherever there are soda or beer cans. You can also find aluminum in other packaging such as pet food cans, canned food products like tuna or Vienna sausages, and aerosol cans.

A standard 12-ounce soda can weighs about half an ounce. It will take 32 standard soda cans to equal one pound. It may be a good idea to save up a few pounds of cans while monitoring aluminum scrap prices per pound in order to get the best payout.

Another source of aluminum is household appliances. Appliances such as washers and dryers, refrigerators, freezers, ovens, and ranges all contain aluminum. These items will require a little more effort to transport and unload but can net a larger payment in a single transaction. Some scrap facilities will even pick up larger items from you. It is worth noting, however, that minor disassembly is required with these items and Freon must be removed from refrigerators and freezers by a professional.

How to Identify Aluminum

Aluminum is typically easy to identify because it’s much lighter than most other metals. If you have a food or drink container that looks like metal and feels light for its size and shape, it’s almost certain you’re holding aluminum. In larger appliances, aluminum is sometimes mistaken for steel. You can check whether the metal is aluminum or steel with a few simple tests:

  • Does a magnet stick to it? Aluminum is not magnetic, so if a magnet sticks to the metal, it’s steel or some other ferrous metal.
  • Does it have any rust? Aluminum corrodes, but does not rust, while steel may rust if exposed to severe conditions for a long period.
  • Is it heavy? Aluminum is three times lighter than steel, so if it feels noticeably light, it’s likely to be aluminum.

If the metal that you have does turn out to be stainless steel, you can see our article about scrap stainless steel prices.

Where to Sell Aluminum

There are a few different ways to get rid of scrap aluminum, depending on how quickly you want to get rid of it and how much you would like to be paid. We have the details below.

Commercial Scrap Yards

Commercial scrap yards will buy scrap metal from individuals, businesses, and contractors, typically at a percentage of the current list price of aluminum per pound. You can expect a commercial scrap yard to offer 30% to 50% of the current price per pound for aluminum. Commercial scrap yards will either pay in cash or load a debit card with the payout amount.

Usually, the payout at a commercial scrap yard is immediate, but some will require a waiting period to ensure the items you’re selling aren’t stolen goods. Be prepared to show some form of personal identification as part of the safeguards against the sale of stolen items.

Grocery Stores or Deposit Redemption Centers

If you live in a state with Container Deposit Laws, you can return empty aluminum beverage cans to most grocery stores or deposit redemption centers for $0.05 to $0.15 each, depending on the state law. Payouts at grocery stores and redemption centers are given as soon as your aluminum cans are counted. Each grocery store or redemption center has its own method of payout, but most will give a cash voucher or electronic funds account that can be applied to grocery bills or donated to charitable causes.

The states and territories with Container Deposit Laws are:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Guam

Many of these states will pay for glass or plastic containers, too.

For the details on Fred Meyer’s bottle return hours, see our article.

City or County Governments

Many county or city governments have programs in place to encourage recycling with a monetary reward. Often these programs include turning in old appliances for an energy bill rebate or similar programs to offset an existing monthly bill. Utility companies such as PNM, Xcel Energy, FirstEnergy, DTE Energy, and Pepco all offer $50 for old refrigerators and freezers and some offer additional money for other appliances. Usually, the payout is applied to your monthly energy bill rather than cash in hand.

Check with your local city or county government or your utility company to see if they offer recycling rebates and to set up an appointment for pick-up.

Local Recycling Centers

If you aren’t concerned about getting paid for your scrap aluminum, you can always take it to a local recycling center. I Want To Be Recycled provides a directory for users to locate a recycling facility near them and includes information about what can and cannot be recycled.

Tips for Selling Scrap Aluminum

Here are a few tips to help you get the most for scrap aluminum:

Stock Up

Make the trip worth your while. Since most scrap yards pay by the pound, it can be better to wait to sell until you have a few pounds collected. Some scrap yards will have a minimum amount required for processing.

Consolidate Space

Crush collected aluminum cans as you acquire them. Crushing your collected aluminum cans will save room on storage and make it easier to transport them to the scrap yard.

Make Sure Items Are Clean

Rinse out and dry your collected cans. Many scrap yards will charge a fee if you bring in dirty or filled metal containers to be sold. If you’re amassing a large batch of scrap aluminum at your property before bringing it to the scrap facility, clean containers will also store better and keep critter infestations at bay.

Know the Law

Some cities have ordinances against collecting discarded aluminum cans in residential neighborhoods or in city parks. Always check your local laws and ordinances to avoid being ticketed or fined.

In Summary

Scrap aluminum is plentiful and easily recycled or sold for cash. Aluminum prices fluctuate with the commodities market, but you can typically expect prices to fall between around $0.50 to over $1.00 per pound. Scrap yards will typically pay 30% to 50% of the market price. Check the daily price trends and call around to local scrap dealers or salvage yards to find the best deal. You can also bring your scrap aluminum beverage cans to a redemption center if you live in a state with Container Deposit Laws. Beverage cans will net you between $0.05 to $0.15 each at a redemption center, depending on the state.

For more information on the prices you’ll get for scrap metal, see our articles on copper, brass, iron, and lead.

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