The Stainless Monthly Metals Index (MMI) increased by 4.5%, as stainless flat rolled base prices continue to move upward due to extended lead times and limited domestic capacity (following a similar trend with steel prices).
Stainless steel producers raise prices
Stainless steel producers North American Stainless (NAS) and Outokumpu announced price increases effective for February deliveries.
Both producers announced a two-discount-point reduction for standard chemistry 304, 304L and 316L. For 304, the base price increase amounts to approximately $0.0350/lb.
Outokumpu diverged from NAS, as it increased all other 300 series alloys, 200 series and 400 series by reducing the functional discount by three points. In addition, Outokumpu also will be implementing a $0.05/lb adder for 21 gauge and lighter.
As the only producer of 72″ wide in North America, Outokumpu increased its 72″ wide adder to $0.18/lb.
Along with rising base prices, alloy surcharges are rising for the third month in a row. February alloy surcharges for 304 will be $0.8592/lb, an increase of $0.0784/lb compared to January.
Both NAS and Outokumpu are also revising their equalized freight rates, which take effect in March.
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Nickel price continues to rise
Over the past two months, most base metals seemed to lose momentum after a bullish price increase in the second half of 2020. However, nickel prices on the LME and SHFE managed to maintain the uptrend into 2021.
LME nickel closed the week of Feb. 5 at $17,995/mt. Meanwhile, SHFE nickel prices closed at CNY 133,650/mt (or $20,663/mt).
The price increase could be due to a bull market along with market fears of material shortages. Expectations of higher demand for nickel batteries remains strong.
US secures nickel supply
In an effort to secure nickel supply for the domestic market, the US government is negotiating with Canada Nickel Co Ltd., a Canadian junior mining company, Reuters reported. The US is looking to ensure the nickel produced at the Crawford Nickel-Cobalt Sulphide project supplies future US production of electric car batteries. In addition, it would supply the growing stainless steel market.
Establishing this type of strategic supply chain with Canada could prevent nickel prices — and, consequently, stainless steel prices — from spiking on material shortage fears.
Currently, China exports large amounts of nickel to produce nickel pig iron and stainless steel. Therefore, China has interests in most of the nickel global supply chain.
Chinese dominance in the nickel market can be seen in the graph below. China and LME nickel prices follow the same trend. The China price, however, consistently trades higher than its LME counterpart.
Actual metals prices and trends
The Allegheny Ludlum 316 stainless surcharge increased 10.4% month over month to $1.17/pound. The 304 surcharge rose 8.6% to $0.88/pound.
LME primary three-month nickel increased 6.9% to $17,761/mt.
Chinese 316 cold-rolled coil increased to $3,512.27/mt. Similarly, Chinese 304 cold-rolled coil rose to $2,540.95/mt.
Chinese primary nickel increased 3.8% to $20,778.32/mt. Indian primary nickel rose 2.4% to $17.77/kilogram.
FeCr lumps increased 3.3% to $1,662.89/mt.
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