Raw material prices used in the manufacture of stainless steel have fallen over the last few months causing the major U.S. manufacturers to lower surcharges on stainless steel. Nickel prices hit a low of
$8,780 per ton in mid-June but have recovered to $10,400 per ton in early August. Stainless steel pricing has remained steady, even through the volatility of raw materials. Some speculation exists that prices may have been supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Section 232 investigation; however, there is no definitive information that stainless steel products are part of the investigations.
Demand for stainless steel products in the U.S. has been increasing, as reported by Argus Metal Prices. Stainless steel scrap prices also have risen by 11.5% over the past month, indicating higher producer demand. This may be a more powerful indicator as to why stainless pricing has held relative to lower raw materials.
Global nickel production still is expected to increase, primarily in response to the weakened Indonesian export ban as well as announcements by Australian producers of new high nickel content ore concentrates.
Outlook for key stainless steel products
Pipe: Decreased surcharges In July-August will affect producer prices, but this may be offset by higher market demand for stainless pipe. Expect prices to maintain current levels. Lead times are stable with no shortages reported in the market.
150-lb. fittings: Fitting prices continue at current levels. Slight increases may be on the horizon as manufacturers test the market to improve returns as we have seen with carbon manufacturers. Lead times should continue to be stable.
ANSI flanges: Flanges continued to see price stability, while at the same time the market noticed slight increases in demand. Expectations for 3Q17 are for pricing and availability to remain stable.
Butt-weld fittings: Butt-weld products are expected to continue to see moderate demand in 3Q17. Market pricing has been stable, but higher demand may push prices higher in the near term. Steady production continues to provide consistent and predictable lead times.
3,000-lb. fittings: The recovery in the oil and gas industry seems to have stabilized pricing in high-temperature pressure fittings. Increasing oil prices could lead to increased project activity toward the close of 2017. Hopes of rebounding material cost lead some to expect minimal price increases to trickle in during 4Q17. Supply remains consistent.
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