European stainless surcharges jump in May after nickel volatility

Monthly alloy surcharges on nickel-bearing stainless steel flat-rolled products in Europe are set to move sharply higher in May following severe volatility in the nickel futures market last month.

Finland’s Outokumpu, the continent’s largest stainless steel producer, set its alloy adjustment factor for type 304 (4301) flat products at Eur3,844/mt ($4,152/mt) for May, up Eur593/mt, or 18%, from April.

The London Metal Exchange suspended trading in it nickel contract on March 8 after the three-months price reached an all-time high of $101,365/mt in early trading, having closed at $48,078/mt March 7.

Trading resumed on March 16 with a preset daily limit of 5%, of which the lower limit was hit early on in trading. The limit was then increased to 8% from March 17, 12% from March 18 and 15% from March 21, although the lower end was hit on each of these days.

Trading has been normal since March 25, within the 15% daily limit range, albeit at reduced volumes. For April-to-date, prices have been holding in a relatively narrow $32,000-$34,000/mt range.

Outokumpu’s surcharge for molybdenum-bearing type 316 (4401) flat products was set at Eur5,559/mt for May, up Eur776 from the previous month.

Molybdenum oxide prices have been stable at elevated levels so far this year, with the Platts daily oxide assessment holding in a $19.00-$19.40/lb range since early March — up from the 2021 average of marginally below $16/lb.

Outokumpu’s surcharge for nickel-free type 430 flat products is up Eur153 for May to Eur1,339/mt.

Ferrochrome prices have strengthened in recent months, with the European benchmark ferrochrome price settling at 216 cents/lb for the second quarter of 2022, up 20% from the first-quarter rollover level of 180 cents/lb.

— Andy Blamey