Sharp stainless surcharge increases were announced for January shipments by all four major domestic stainless-steel producers – NAS, Outokumpu Coil Americas, ATI and AK Steel. Total stainless increases range from 5-7% and were in response to sharply rising prices for ferrochrome and other stainless alloys as well as higher nickel prices.

U.S. low-carbon ferrochrome prices reached a 12-month high of $2.00-$2.08 per pound in mid-December, according to American Metal Market's (AMM) most recent assessment. Prices have risen by more than 13% since early November. High-carbon ferrochrome prices jumped to a 66-month high of $1.25-$1.33 per pound in the same assessment. The domestic market was following a global chrome rally that saw the European ferrochrome quarterly benchmark reach an eight-year high of $1.65 per pound, up 50% from the 4Q16 benchmark of $1.10 per pound in September.

U.S. ferrosilicon prices also gained strength through mid-December, hitting a nearly 13-month high of 76-80 cents per pound, according to American Metal Market's (AMM) latest assessment, up an average of 9.1% since the start of November. Tight material supply was the main cause. U.S. imports of ferrosilicon were down 13.5% in the first 10 months of 2016, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, largely due to foreign suppliers drawing down bloated inventories and facing increased replenishment costs.

A similar story played out for manganese alloys, which as of mid-December had risen in price for 10 consecutive weeks, also due to stunted supply chains. According to American Metal Market (AMM), U.S. high-carbon ferromanganese spot prices hit a 72-month high of $1,300-$1,370 per gross ton Dec. 15.  U.S. silicomanganese spot prices reached a nearly 55-month high of 67-70 cents per pound in the same assessment. Prices for high-carbon ferromanganese and silicomanganese have now risen 60.8% and 67.1%, respectively, since early October, according to AMM.

Global stainless-steel production soared by 7.0% in the first three quarters of last year, compared with the first nine months of 2015, according to the International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF). The rise was mostly due to China, whose world stainless production capacity gained another 11.4% in the first nine months of last year. Global stainless-steel production did decline by 2.9% in the July-September period from the prior quarter.