According to MEPS, austenitic stainless steel coil selling values rose in September, in the United States and Europe. This was largely due to the increase in the London Metal Exchange nickel price, during the July/August reference period for alloy surcharge calculations. Transaction figures in the Far East, in a reaction to subsequent raw material cost movements, were either unchanged or recorded slight reductions.
European stainless steel producers also sought basis price increases in September and, in most cases, achieved small advances. At this late stage in the month, we know that surcharges will fall, in October. Consequently, EU mills are likely to push for further basis price hikes. Any such rise agreed will be insufficient to counteract the drop in alloy extras. Transaction values will, therefore, decline. However, since the calculation of the October surcharges, the LME nickel price has climbed significantly. This is likely to result in an increase in 300 series stainless steel selling figures, in November.
The costs of raw materials, especially nickel, have led to fluctuating stainless steel prices during most of 2016. Now, though, several factors suggest a more sustainable upward trend for nickel values. Market observers have been predicting, for some time, that demand will exceed nickel production in the medium term. Although LME stocks are at a historically high level, they have been on a downward curve throughout this year and, this week, have recorded a two-year low.
Furthermore, the government of the Philippines’ environmental audit has resulted in the shuttering of 10 mines and, recently, a recommendation for a further 20 to be suspended. These 30 facilities would include 18 nickel mines, representing over half of the country’s extra sction capacity, or around 10 percent of world nickel ore output.
This situation has attracted speculators to the nickel commodity market and is likely to result in sustained higher prices for the metal.