The Stainless Steel MMI indicates that prices are holding fast.
This, as cold-rolled stainless imports to the U.S. have averaged above 40,000 MT per month for several straight months. Meanwhile, U.S. flat-rolled stainless producers have run at full capacity for over a year now. Still, they continue to place premiums on products they simply don’t want to make.
For NAS and Outokumpu Calvert, that category includes basically anything that is not 304, 304L, 316L 2B (or 2D) base gauge or 48 & 60 wide standard mechanicals. On the other hand, A.K. is focused on the ferritic side for automotive and highly selective about alloys that contain any nickel.
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Trouble is Brewing Among Suppliers
There are few options for supplying the volumes needed to satisfy the ongoing demand. The extra steel either needs to come from Allegheny & Tsingshan Stainless J.V.’s DRAP (Direct Roll Anneal and Pickle Line), or from imports. However, it can’t come from both.
With CRS import levels so high, the U.S. market simply doesn’t need the tons coming from A&T Stainless’ Midland facility. Indeed, back in March, all of A&T’s December / January 232 exemption petitions for Indonesian hot band were denied.
The company claimed they needed “clean” Indonesian band made from nickel pig iron that was free of residual elements. However, the Midland facility previously had no issues using scrap from Allegheny bands as well as other domestic and foreign suppliers.
Concerns over Chinese stainless steel supply
NAS, Outokumpu, and Cleveland-Cliffs vehemently opposed granting A&T Stainless Section 232 exemptions. One of the main concerns was ATI’s J.V. partner Tsingshan, a Chinese military-backed steel conglomerate. Specifically, there were issues with nickel pig iron instead of scrap. On top of that, Tsingshan’s speculative actions regarding nickel almost brought down the LME.
As previously covered, no U.S. or European-based mill would have been able to do what Tsingshan did. On May 3rd, Cris Fuentes, CEO of North American Stainless, issued the following statement to MetalMiner regarding Tsingshan’s actions:
“China’s continued anti-competitive practices and blatant market manipulation at the London Metal Exchange threaten to devastate the American steel industry and its workers, weaken our national security, and slow progress in addressing climate change. As countries across the world work to limit dirty Chinese steel, Beijing has only become more manipulative. The Chinese military-backed steel conglomerate Tsingshan has built sprawling new industrial complexes in Indonesia that can produce 27 times more steel than that country uses in an entire year. These egregious cross-border subsidies (sic) lead to a costly game of whack-a-mole as American regulators struggle to keep pace. Washington policymakers must flex American muscle with new and modernized protections for steel to counter the growing threats from abroad.”
Outokumpu declined to comment.
Comments from A&T Stainless
In a request for comment, Danielle Carlini General Manager, A&T Stainless said via email:
“We are disappointed the U.S. Department of Commerce denied A&T Stainless’s Section 232 tariff exclusion requests. We believe we meet the criteria for an exclusion and had looked forward to serving the needs of the market by bringing employees back to work through restarting idled assets. The Midland DRAP line that was idled in July 2020 will remain idled at this time. I cannot comment for Tsingshan.”
- Allegheny and Tsingshan Stainless have not received 232 exclusions though others have
- Brokers, master distributors, and even a large service center (which has always had a mix of domestic and import sources) have received exclusions.
- The stainless steel MMI indicates that prices remain strong.
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