Stainless MMI: Nickel Prices, Stainless Steel Surcharges Drive Growth

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The Stainless MMI has inched eight points higher this month, reaching July 2015 levels. The increase was driven by higher nickel prices, together with an increase in stainless steel surcharges.

Stainless steel surcharges have increased this month after decreasing month-over-month since April.

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Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(SM)

Despite the uptick in the Stainless MMI, however, many analysts believe stainless steel will fall  in the upcoming months.

Even if the increase in prices for global stainless steel flat products increased by 6% during the first months of 2017, Oliver Spaltman, senior market analyst for Steel & Metals Market Research (SMMR), estimates that the full-year demand growth in 2017 will be 4%.

In early September, the U.S. Department of Commerce launched anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations on stainless steel flange products from China and India. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) is scheduled to make its preliminary determinations in the investigations Oct. 2.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

Nickel prices began falling in early September from their previous peak. However, the uptrend remains clear and strong; we could see upward movements in the coming months.

Higher demand, boosted by Asian battery makers, has aided nickel’s rally. The Chinese electric vehicle market has grown during 2016 and 2017, producing 43% of the worldwide electric vehicle fleet in 2016. If this trend continues, Asian automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) might support nickel prices with their higher battery demand. Also, the latest increases for nickel prices come down to trader sentiment around nickel deficit concerns.

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

Both steel and stainless steel do not appear to follow the same recent increase in industrial metals prices as other base metals.

Every steel form has lost some of its price momentum, but has still notched some increases this month.

To understand how to adapt the buying strategy to your needs, dive into our deeper analysis in our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook.

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Actual Stainless Steel Prices and Trends

Chinese 304 stainless steel cold rolled coil jumped by 20.8% to $2,640.02/metric ton, while Chinese 316 stainless steel cold rolled increased by 13.8% to $3,520.02/mt. Chinese FerroChrome prices also increased by 15.7%, reaching $2,571.74/mt.

North American base prices have remained stable; however, the increases in total price is a result of the increase in nickel.

Indications are that chromium will rise in the fourth quarter from the third quarter’s $1.10 per pound to $1.20-$1.35 per pound.

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