Stainless steel prices forecast to peak in April
April’s austenitic stainless steel prices are predicted to represent the peak values for 2017, in Europe and North America. Alloy surcharges for grade 304 flat products will increase by around €50 per tonne, in Europe, and by US$15 per tonne, in the United States, next month. Thereafter, the reduction in the European ferrochrome contract price, for the second quarter, will have a negative effect on surcharges. Furthermore, LME nickel values have dipped in recent weeks, adding to the likelihood that alloy extras will soften, for May.
In the Philippines, President Duterte’s support for mine closures, on environmental grounds, has had a positive effect on nickel commodity values. This has been counteracted by the Indonesian government’s reversal of its ore export ban.
Nickel prices are forecast to climb above US$11,000 per tonne, in the second half of this year, but this will be offset by a weakening in other mill raw material costs, in the alloy surcharge calculations.
Market sentiment is positive, in Europe and North America, although demand has eased, slightly, after a bright start to the year. Nevertheless, basis figures are forecast to be relatively stable, throughout 2017.
A number of factors restraining price development have been noted, despite increasing consumption. Global overcapacity persists, in stainless steel production facilities. Currently, suppliers have healthy order books and delivery lead times are extending. Mills, particularly in the West, however, are not manned to operate on a 24/7 basis and are, therefore, unable to produce at their theoretical maximum capability.
In Europe, while antidumping duties have, effectively, removed Chinese cold rolled coils from the market, competitively priced imports, from Asia, are still widespread. The moderate levy on coils from Taiwan, has not prevented sellers from offering material from that country at prices that are attractive to European buyers. In recent times, steel from the Indian producer, Jindal, has gained a foothold in the EU market.
Although its material is subject to protectionist measures in many countries, Chinese production continues to expand. This contributes to substantial oversupply in the Far East, with the consequent negative effect on prices.