The Stainless Steel MMI (Monthly Metals Index) jumped six points this month, with a reading of 71. This reading ran higher than November’s (70), which then dropped to 65 for December before bouncing back for our January reading.
Skyrocketing LME nickel prices drove the Stainless Steel MMI. However, 304 and 316 Allegheny Ludlum surcharges fell slightly this month.
LME Nickel Makes Big Jump
As reported previously by MetalMiner, nickel price volatility has increased over the past few months.
Nickel prices jumped from the $10,600/metric ton level in October to almost breaching MetalMiner’s current $13,000/mt ceiling.
Trading volume remains strong, aligned with the recent popularity of nickel in the base metals complex. Besides stainless steel, nickel’s popularity has increased due to usage in batteries and electric cars. Q4 brought more activity for metals that have a direct impact on electric cars.
Nickel macro-indicators may support this latest rally.
The nickel deficit will continue this year. The International Nickel Study Group (INSG) reported a wider nickel deficit again in 2017, now up to 9,700 tons. A nickel supply deficit may add support to the nickel bullish rally and could create additional upward movements this year.
Buying organizations may want to be aware of these movements to identify opportunities to buy on the dips.
Chinese Stainless Steel
As reported by the International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF), global stainless steel production increased by 7.4% during the first nine months of 2017. China drove the gains, with an increase in production of 8.8%. Stainless steel prices decreased around 7% in East Asian ports.
Chinese stainless steel coil prices increased slightly this month. Chinese prices remain higher than they were in Q2. However, there has not yet been a clear uptrend that signals prices may increase soon.
Domestic Stainless Steel Market
Despite the recovery in momentum of the Stainless MMI, NAS domestic stainless steel surcharges traded sideways this month. Despite trading flat, stainless steel surcharges remain well above last year’s lows (under $0.4/pound).
What This Means for Industrial Buyers
Stainless steel momentum appears in recovery, similar to all the other forms of steel.
However, due to nickel’s high price volatility, buying organizations may want to follow the market closely for opportunities to buy on the dips.
Actual Stainless Steel Prices and Trends
Generally, all the metals within the stainless steel basket increased this month. Chinese 304 stainless steel coil prices increased by 4.4% to $2,448.13/mt, while Chinese 316 stainless steel cold prices increased just by 0.9% to $3,387.35/mt. Chinese Ferrochrome prices jumped again this month, this time by 17% to $2,101/mt. Nickel prices also increased by 12.2% to $12,710/mt.