European flat stainless steel prices narrow on lull in demand

The price of stainless steel flat products in Europe narrowed downward in November due to the persistent lack of end-user demand, industry sources told Fastmarkets in the week ended Friday December 1.

Fastmarkets’ monthly price assessment for stainless steel cold-rolled sheet, 2mm, grade 304, transaction domestic, delivered North Europe, was €2,600-2,650 ($2,822-2,876) per tonne on Friday, narrowing downward from €2,600-2,680 per tonne on November 3.

Stainless steel service centers have kept to a wait-and-see approach into December, a distributor told Fastmarkets.

“We are just waiting to see the mills’ behavior. [Steel mills] will either reduce production to maintain prices or they will reduce the prices in order to book more orders. Currently, [steel mills] do not have many orders,” the distributor said.

Distributors were not looking to buy new material and, as a result, stock levels were currently low, Fastmarkets understands.

“Demand is still weak,” a second distributor said last week, “but this is no surprise. [Last month’s] prices were never backed up by better demand from the end-user side. Prices reached their peak a month ago, and my expectation is that prices will go down in January.”

The market for finished stainless steel products has been weakened throughout 2023 by poor downstream demand and a grim macroeconomic backdrop. Lower nickel costs have also been a significant factor.

The alloy surcharge for grade-304 material, which is primarily based on nickel costs, also fell on Friday. Fastmarkets’ monthly assessment of the stainless steel cold-rolled sheet, 2mm, grade 304 alloy surcharge, domestic, Europe, was €2,055-2,069 per tonne on December 1, down from €2,135-2,152 per tonne one month earlier.

Surcharges for December will typically be based on alloy component costs between October 20 and November 21, when the average three-month daily official nickel price on the London Metal Exchange was $17,774 per tonne, down by $997 per tonne from $18,771 per tonne one month earlier.

Published by: Zdravko Cherkezov