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International distributor and quality service provider in high-performance materials including Titanium, Nickel Alloys, Aerospace Steels, Special Steels and Exotic alloys, we specialise in hard to find materials.

Shortage leads to price explosion in stainless steel

Never before have we seen such a constellation on the stainless steel market. Prices exploded in the first half of the year and this time it is not (only) due to nickel (as in 2007). Chrome prices have risen by 35% since the beginning of the year, stainless steel scrap by 25% and nickel by just 5%. The price drivers are the base prices of the mills, which have virtually doubled since January. Shortages prevail even though production volumes have increased by 30% compared to the second quarter of 2020. Last year's slump was of comparable magnitude, except for China, so we are still likely to be about 10% below, say, 2019 levels. It takes time to rebuild capacity and get logistics working again. The EU's tariffs protect us from Asian competition; in China, prices have risen by just under 15% since the beginning of the year and not by 35% as they have here. Stocks are only just full in Europe and factory delivery times are 6 to 8 months. We are in for a "hot" summer; nevertheless, the situation will calm down again after the summer when the stocks build up again and the buyer panic has subsided. However, prices will then pick up in nickel alloys and titanium, which usually lag stainless steel by 6 months. A large project in the oil & gas sector has just been awarded in the alloys 625 and 718 and that is already enough for significantly longer delivery times and rising prices. Molybdenum (important for the high-alloy materials) only rose by 25% in May. CO2 levies, transport and packaging costs (wood) are rising sharply. Metal and scrap prices will remain high; inflation is bound to come.

June 2021

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