Stainless Steel Prices Holding Up Well?

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With all of the rare earth metal stories taking front and center page (Reuters Metals Insider devoted three full pages of rare earths coverage in their report this morning), not one of their 23 pages and dozens of stories covered stainless steel. And yet quietly, the market has behaved much like we reported it might, back in the middle of September. Consider this from Stuart’s post of September 13 (source Reuters) “¦both Acerinox and Outokumpo have gone on record as saying they expect third quarter stainless demand to be soft resulting in a fall of 10-20% in demand. For those like Outokumpo that have swung from loss to profit and back again over recent quarters, the third quarter will likely result in losses again. But demand is widely expected to pick up in the fourth quarter and with it nickel prices should see some further upside.

So where has the market gone during the last 43 days? According to an article published last week by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Allegheny Technologies will take a $.21/share charge due to rising nickel prices. And Universal Stainless issued a press release yesterday announcing a 3% price increase for all stainless bar products shipped after January 1, 2011. Yet despite falling global stainless steel 304 index readings (see this chart from MEPS) as well as slightly falling US stainless steel 304 index readings see chart here, nickel prices appear to be holding up fairly well, according to this 60 day Kitco LME price chart:

Despite any small hiccups, stainless steel demand, particularly in India and the rest of Asia appears poised to grow according to various news reports such as this one from India’s The Economic Times.

US stainless steel surcharges have held up well (and even increased) from just 30 days ago. AK Steel’s 304 surcharge has inched up from $.9391/lb to $1.0616/lb. Allegheny Ludlum surcharges moved similarly. Prices for Chinese 304 CR coil have increased one percent over the past 30 days according to our own MetalMiner IndX(SM) whereas other forms (e.g. bars, CR sheet and wire) have remained unchanged.

What are MetalMiner readers seeing in the marketplace? Take our brief 4 question survey below and we’ll share results with you on Friday!

–Lisa Reisman

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