Domestic stainless steel producers announced modest increases in surcharges for April. Most increases amounted to less than 1.0% except for Type 316, which the domestic producers were boosting around 2.7%. According to MEPS International, April’s austenitic stainless steel prices are likely to peak for the year in North America. Although nickel prices are expected to surge in the second half, they are likely to be offset by other reductions in mill costs.
Nickel prices are proving volatile. After tickling $11,000 per ton on the London Metal Exchange in February, prices had dropped to under $10,000 in March. A big reason, apparently, is a pickup in production, thanks to Indonesia weakening its export ban. Prices are likely to decline even more if the Philippines relax environmental regulations that have closed 23 mines representing around half the country’s annual nickel production. Some analysts predict the Philippines will do so simply because of the employment and economic impact of those mines. London-based BMI Research predicts that global nickel ore production will average 3.7% annual growth in the next five years.
Global stainless steel melt shop production increased by 10.2% in 2016, according to the International Stainless Steel Forum. Most of the increase was contributed by China, where production rose by 15.7%.
U.S. high-carbon ferrochrome prices were edging up a bit in March with most analysts predicting them to hold steady for the foreseeable future. Spot market activity was reported as slow and supplies adequate.
U.S. ferrosilicon prices were reported by American Metal Market to be softening a bit at the end of March as suppliers looked to unload inventory before 1Q17 drew to a close. Rising prices overseas lead many to believe ferrosilicon will be reversing course and heading up soon.
Both silicomanganese and high-carbon ferromanganese prices were reported slipping at month’s end, according to an assessment from American Metal Market, in phase with slumping manganese ore. This may not last because of tight supplies.
Thin inventories were putting upward pressure on molybdenum prices. According to the assessment from American Metal Market in early March, moly oxide tags were at nearly nine-month highs, while U.S. spot prices for ferromolybdenum were at levels not seen in nearly two years.