stainless steel price

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The Stainless Steel Monthly Metals Index (MMI) declined by three points this month to 67, following a five-point decline last month.

LME nickel prices continued to slide as global markets reacted to production delays due to coronavirus, which weakened demand and prices.

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The Stainless Steel Monthly Metals Index (MMI) gave up five points this month, setting the value back to 70.

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LME nickel prices dropped slightly below the $13,000/mt price level in late January when industrial metals prices, generally speaking, declined as markets reacted to China’s coronavirus situation.

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We all love conspiracy stories — who knew what and who was manipulating events behind the scenes?

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A recent Telegraph article takes a more balanced approach to review goings-on at the London Metal Exchange (LME) amid accusations that have been leveled against some major market players that they were instrumental, or at least complicit, in the manipulation of the nickel market last year.

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Another victim of China’s coronavirus epidemic could well be the iron ore price.

Iron ore had a stellar 2019, reaching a five-year high of $125 per ton in July on the back of Vale SA’s Brumadinho mining dam disaster and Cyclone Veronica, which struck Western Australia in March.

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Since then, the price has fallen back to just over $78 per ton in December and is currently trading around $90 per ton in Singapore — still well above prices this time last year.

Supply disruption was met with rising demand. China produced nearly 1 billion tons of steel in 2019 and consumed an estimated 875 million tons, spurred by stimulus-supported infrastructure spending and consumption from the construction market.

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U.S. steel imports through the first 11 months of 2019 were down 17% compared with the same period in 2018, according to preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data.

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Imports through the first 11 months of 2019 reached 23.9 millions tons, down from 28.9 million tons from January-November 2018.

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals coverage here on MetalMiner, including: steel prices, commodities markets, precious metals, the U.S.-China Phase One trade deal and the Senate’s approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

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This morning in metals news, aluminum maker Alcoa released its financial results for Q4 and 2019, an Ohio steel plant touts investment that it says will bring new jobs and a Pittsburgh-based metals manufacturer says it will have to close a facility unless it wins a steel tariff exemption.

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Alcoa releases quarterly financials

Aluminum maker Alcoa reported a net loss of $303 million ($57 million excluding special items) in Q4 2019.

Fourth-quarter revenue came in at $2.4 billion, down from $2.6 billion the previous quarter and $3.3 billion in Q4 2018.

“In 2019, we acted to further strengthen Alcoa, completing the divestiture of uncompetitive assets, modernizing labor agreements in three countries, implementing a new operating model, and making quick progress on the asset review process we announced last quarter,” Alcoa President and CEO Roy Harvey said.

“While the market in alumina and aluminum challenged us, we maintained a strong cash balance of nearly $900 million and drove operational stability,” Harvey said. “Also, our low-cost, top-tier bauxite and alumina segments both set new annual production records based on our current portfolio.”

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This morning in metals news, a Chinese firm is poised to take over the insolvent British Steel, Chinese iron ore futures were down Monday and speakers at a recent convention in Budapest weighed in on the stainless steel market.

Jingye to Buy British Steel

After talks with Turkey’s Ataer Holding fell apart, Chinese firm Jingye Steel has reportedly signed a deal to rescue British Steel, the BBC reported.

British Steel was put into forced liquidation in May, setting off a bidding process for the ailing steelmaker.

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According to the BBC, Jingye plans to £1.2 billion in British Steel.

The deal is pending and still requires regulatory approval, according to a statement by the Official Receiver.

“Completion of the contract is conditional on a number of matters, including gaining the necessary regulatory approvals,” the Official Receiver said. “The parties are working together to conclude a sale as soon as reasonably practicable.

“The business will continue to trade as normal during the period between exchange and completion. Support from employees, suppliers and customers since the liquidation has been a critical factor in achieving this outcome.”

Chinese Iron Ore Futures Slide

According to Reuters, Chinese iron ore futures fell by as much as 3.1% on Monday.

The most-traded iron ore futures contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell 2.1% to 594 yuan ($84.93) per ton.

Rising Nickel, Falling Stainless Steel

At the recent BIR World Recycling Convention Round-Table Sessions held in Budapest, speakers delved into the seemingly curious current relationship between nickel prices and stainless steel values.

According to Natalie Scott-Gray, senior metals demand analyst at INTL FCStone, stainless steel production is forecast to rise 2% this year, with demand projected to rise 16% over the next five years, Recycling Today reported.

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Another guest speaker at the event, Olivier Masson, said the stainless steel market is going through a “relatively soft patch,” partially impacted by a shift in trading patterns as a result of the U.S.’s Section 232 tariffs and China’s exports of hot-rolled material, according to the Recycling Today report.

The Stainless Monthly Metals Index (MMI) followed last month’s six-point increase with a 16-point jump this month.

Once again, the index surge came as a result of strong nickel price gains, even though a slim majority of global prices in the index declined (albeit mildly compared to nickel price increases).

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LME nickel prices increased 28.5%, based on supply disruption news. Nickel prices in China and India also reacted strongly, increasing by 25.9% and 24.1%, respectively.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of the London Metal Exchange (LME) and FastMarkets

SHFE Nickel Prices Surged

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

The Indonesia nickel ore export ban will now take effect two years earlier than planned, on Jan. 1, 2020. SHFE prices surged just prior to, and during the day or so around, the actual approval of the ban date by the Indonesian government.

Higher Nickel Prices Look Set to Stick for the Near Term

Opinions appear mixed as to whether prices will drop back down anytime soon, with some analysts foreseeing further price increases.

Indonesia produced around 26% of global mine supply last year, according to the International Nickel Study Group.

It is possible ramped-up production of nickel pig iron in Indonesia will stave off further price increases from supply shortages. According to Reuters, large mining companies reportedly welcomed the ban and plan to increase smelting output.

Also, higher ingot prices higher, incentivizes mine production; as such, increases could also come from other sources.

According to a recent Reuters report, Dante Bravo, president of the Philippine Nickel Industry Association indicated mine production looks set to ramp up in 2020, but constraints, such as government-imposed mining curbs, will limit growth. Bravo added mining volume most likely peaked with 2014’s record-setting high of 50 million tons.

The Philippines produced 11.31 million tons of nickel during the first half of 2019, up by 3% compared with the first half of 2018, Reuters reported.

Domestic Stainless Steel Market

Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(™)

Stainless 304 and 316 NAS surcharges increased in August due to sizable nickel price increases. Next month’s MMI looks set to show a greater impact from surcharges than they showed in August.

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

MetalMiner’s stainless steel price index hit near a five-year high, rising to a value not seen since November 2014’s value of 92. As indicated last month, prices appear speculatively high; premium prices also surged.

Therefore, industrial buyers need to stay alert for the right opportunity to buy.

Buying organizations interested in tracking industrial metals prices with greater ease will want to request a demo of the MetalMiner Insights platform.

Buying organizations seeking more insight into longer-term steel price trends should read MetalMiner’s Annual Metal Buying Outlook.

Looking for metal price forecasting and data analysis in one easy-to-use platform? Inquire about MetalMiner Insights today!

Actual Stainless Steel Prices and Trends

Once again, nickel prices registered double-digit increases for the monthly index reading.

The LME primary three-month nickel price increased by 28.5% to $18,475/mt. China’s primary nickel price increased by 25.9% to $20,601/mt. India’s primary nickel price increased by 24.1% to $17.99/kilogram.

The U.S. 316 and 304 Allegheny Ludlum stainless surcharges increased by 14.1% and 16.6%, respectively, to $1.00/pound and $0.69/pound.

More than half of the prices in the index dropped, albeit mildly compared with the price increases.

Chinese Ferro Alloys FeMo lumps dropped by 4.7% this month, while FeCr lumps dropped by 4%.

Chinese 316 and 304 stainless steel scrap prices both dropped 4%, down to $1,827/mt and $1,401/mt, respectively.

Chinese 304 CR stainless steel coil increased 4.4% to $2,259/mt, while 316 CR coil dropped by 0.8% to $3,081/mt.

Korean prices for 430 CR 2B stainless steel coil and 304 CR 2B stainless coil both decreased by 2.2%, down to $1,195/mt and $2,101/mt, respectively.

The Stainless Steel Monthly Metals Index (MMI) declined this month, dropping by two index points to 69. A few of the prices in the basket registered fair declines, with nickel prices showing weakness.

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LME Nickel

The LME primary nickel 3-month price decreased nearly 8% over the course of April. While prices showed strength early in the year into March, prices faltered and began to trade sideways.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

More recently, however, prices appear on a declining trend, which could indicate a pricing correction, rather than a shift in trend.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

However, with negative volume still high — as indicated on the weekly chart of LME nickel prices with trading volume shown along the bottom — the correction remains in progress.

China’s Economic Performance Matters for Prices

The present global economic outlook could be characterized as uncertain in the face of ongoing trade talks between the U.S. and China.

After much press early in the year over China’s slower rate of growth, with forecasts shifted downward at the start of the year, the FXI — an index of large-cap Chinese companies — surprised the market with a show of strength.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of data

Chinese stimulus measures helped bolster the economy’s performance. Recently, however, the boost seemed to lose steam; meanwhile, the FXI uptrend waned.

The U.S. Economy Grew in Q1; Some Sectors Lagged Behind

Economic indicators continue to fluctuate into 2019, for both the U.S. and China.

For example, while Q1 growth appeared stronger than expected in the U.S., construction spending and new home starts showed weakness in March, while new auto sales slowed this year. China’s performance remains mixed, with auto sales also weak there.

Domestic Stainless Steel Market

This month, the 304/304L-Coil and 316/316L-Coil NAS Surcharges dropped to $0.63 and $0.92 per pound, respectively, from $0.64/pound and $0.93/pound at the beginning of April.

What This Means for Industrial Buyers 

Downward-trending prices provide good news for industrial buyers, with stainless steel prices showing weakness this month overall.

For more detailed price guidance, request a free two-month trial to our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook.

MetalMiner’s Annual Outlook provides 2019 buying strategies for carbon steel

Actual Stainless Steel Prices and Trends

Stainless steel prices showed weakness, with price declines hitting the subindex.

In particular, LME nickel prices fell 7.9% month over month to $12,210 mt. Primary nickel prices in China and India fell by 3.5% and 5.8%, respectively, with Chinese primary nickel averaging $15,412/mt and Indian primary nickel averaging $12.49 per kilogram.

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