Stainless steel February 2023
If 2022 taught us one thing, it is that anything can happen on the stainless steel market. Currently several factors in the market seem to be stabilising, but no one is willing to bet on what 2023 has in store.
Generally speaking, the energy crisis is over, the Chinese economy is showing positive signs and the availability of stainless steel is overall good. But the nickel and molybdenum prices are still completely unpredictable, and the instability between China and Taiwan and between Russia and the EU are geopolitical uncertainties.
China shows no signs of deescalating the conflict with Taiwan, and since Taiwan is the seventh biggest supplier of stainless steel and an important semiconductor manufacturer, a conflict can cause havoc in the market. At the same time the EU has recently renewed the sanctions against Russia.
4301 is expected to go slightly down, but qualities containing molybdenum, such as 4404, are expected to go up.
The European Safeguard quotas for Q1 are still open for cold rolled plates, suggesting that European demand and supply are somewhat balanced. A few months ago, the quotas were used up within days to meet demand.
Bars are a repeat of the news from January: Demand is on the rise, and so are the alloy and energy surcharges. Especially 4307 and 44o4 are expected to go up.
Lead times are looking better, but on small dimensions and polished materials we are still facing lead times well into Q3.
Generally speaking, uncertainty is the common theme across all raw materials in the coming years. The green transition is causing increased demand for raw materials but also stricter standards for sustainable mining practices, while many mines are a major polluter of the local and global environment. To make matters worse, a disproportionately high number of mines are susceptible to catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods or collapsing.
Compared to previous months, the nickel price is relatively stable – but high – at the moment. But this is not a sign of sustainable stability, the price is still best described as highly volatile.
The price of molybdenum has continued upwards and hit a record high 96,000 USD/ton mid-February. This development is partly due to a shaky supply chain and to unexpected demand from China. But the root of the problem is simply a shortage of active mines with available molybdenum, partly due to flooding.
The price hike is reflected in 4404 in particular.
Turkey is an important ferrochrome supplier, and one of the biggest mines is located in the February 6th earthquake impact zone.
This leads us to expect rising prices in the near future, which are coming after a period of stability.
The scrap price is still high, and we expect continued increases in the long term. With the demand for raw materials and a race towards “green steel”, existing material will be valuable in the battle for resources