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Stainless Steel Buyers Wary Of Nickel Price Volatility

Feb 08, 2022

Stainless steel buyers wary of nickel price volatility


Comprehensive foreign media reported on February 6 that the recent volatility in nickel prices has made European stainless steel market participants nervous, especially at a time when many are worried that prices are about to reverse. In addition, demand for stainless steel materialized slowly in the first few weeks of January.

However, intra-regional supply remains tight for some products, the most important of which are cold rolled coil and sheet. As a result, many buyers are still forced to obtain materials as local lead times for new products have now been extended into the second half of the year.


19Guaranteed quota exhausted


Supply constraints on CRC and sheet in the intraregional market, coupled with attractive import offers, have led to another quarter of rapid exhaustion of EU safeguard quotas for Taiwan and Turkey.

In the first few days of January, India's subsidies for stainless steel bars were also fully utilized. Still, some buyers report that they will buy the materials and pay any necessary duties, while others will wait until quotas open in April.

Despite safeguards, Asian-origin imports are currently priced well below domestic purchases. Some buyers reported that most of the Asian offers they received for 304 CRC were below 4,000 per tonne (including duties). This equates to a difference between the import value and the domestic value of about 300/400 per ton. Some market participants said that was more than double the normal price gap.

At the same time, with the introduction of energy surcharges by European producers, the cost advantage of ordering ton-grade stainless long products from India has widened considerably.


19Chinese mills raise prices


Ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, Chinese stainless producers have been trying to adjust their offers to reflect the surge in nickel prices. Stainless steel producers in several Asian markets have temporarily withdrawn their offers while assessing the raw material price situation. The new offer may be higher but still competitive in Europe.

On January 21, LME spot nickel prices reached their highest in more than a decade, and inventories continued to slide. Inventories in LME-registered warehouses have fallen to record lows amid tight supplies and good demand, especially from electric car makers.

After peaking at around $24,000 a ton on Jan. 21, nickel prices fell back above $22,500 a ton in the following days. That's partly because of concerns that Indonesia's Tsingshan could inject battery-grade nickel into the market. However, prices have partially recovered as these concerns eased.

Nickel prices are likely to remain high in the short term. As a result, European alloy surcharges are expected to increase month-on-month in March.