According to the latest MEPS report, stainless steel prices which are at a record high, are set to rise further.
Stainless steel prices have reached record levels, and look set to advance still further in the next few months. Including raw material surcharges, MEPS transaction prices for cold rolled 304 in Europe and North America now exceed $US4,500 per tonne – an unprecedented high value.
In Asia, the MEPS cold rolled 304 price is rather lower at $US3,706 per tonne, and has some catching up to do. Significantly, some major Asian mills have announced plans to raise prices further during the fourth quarter.
Cold rolled 304 prices have virtually doubled since the start of this year, and have more than tripled since they touched their most recent historical low point in the period December 2001 to February 2002. At that time transaction prices were as low as $US1,300 per tonne in North America, $US1,173 per tonne in Asia and $US1,234 per tonne in Europe. The price of nickel in those days was around $US5,000 per tonne – today it is over $US30,000 per tonne.
Basis prices have certainly increased this year, and may rise further during the fourth quarter. But most of the recent advance is attributable to raw material costs. The alloy surcharges that North American and European mills add to their basis figures have jumped by over 160 percent since the start of this year. The alloy surcharge today accounts for the majority of the transaction price.
Buyers of stainless steel appear to have become much more cautious as prices have risen. The steep increase this year has added a greater element of uncertainty to trading conditions. Users who had de-stocked when alloy surcharges reached $US1,500 per tonne – in the expectation that the climb in the nickel price would go into reverse – now find themselves obliged to pay a lot more for new orders.
However, this does not appear to have kept buyers out of the market to any severe degree. Mills report steady demand from end-users, with delivery lead-times for some products stretching into January and even February. Some supply constraints are also affecting current market dynamics.