Asian stainless CRC prices rally, pressure Asian demand lower

Asian stainless cold-rolled coil prices increased in the week to Feb. 18, with persistent expectations of limited supply pushing prices higher and deterring buyers in Asia.

S&P Global Platts assessed 304 grade 2 mm 2B stainless CRC at $3,220/mt CFR East and Southeast Asian ports Feb. 18, up $15/mt on the week.

The official nickel cash price on the London Metal Exchange settled at $24,147.50/mt on Feb. 17, up $95/mt on the week. In addition to the Indonesian nickel export tax, the supply of nickel from Russia was heard affected by the recent tensions over Ukraine, further weighing on supply concerns.

“Nickel output from Nornickel, Vale and Glencore in 2021 decreased by 7%-18% from 2020 levels,” said a Hong Kong-based trader source. “Production cost for stainless steel is likely to go up since there is so much competition for a limited supply of nickel.”

In the Chinese market, domestic demand was weak as current price levels were too high for buyers. Buyers from Europe were more active and there were more bookings heard into Europe as buyers were heard to be more willing to take up the high freight cost on top of already high prices.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese buyers were also heard to be generally inactive and import volumes were low. Offer levels from Taiwan were heard to be above $3,400/mt on a CFR basis.

“Domestic prices have risen fast, which is usually the pattern seen after long holidays. But the issue is that the rise is too fast that overseas buyers in the Middle East and Turkey are not ready to accept that, so export businesses are still very few,” said a China-based trader.

The most actively-traded April 2022 stainless steel contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed at Yuan 18,540/mt on Feb. 18, up Yuan 240/mt, or 1.3%, from Feb. 11.

— Grace Chiang, Joanne Ju