Supply shortages push up European stainless steel prices despite sluggish demand

Stainless steel distributors have adopted a wait-and-see approach at the start of October, amid increasing prices and persistently slow demand, sources told Fastmarkets in the week to Friday October 6.

Fastmarkets’ monthly price assessment for stainless steel cold-rolled sheet 2mm grade 304 transaction domestic, delivered North Europe, was €2,550-2,650 ($2,700-2,805) per tonne on Friday, up from €2,500-2,600 per tonne on September 1.

A shortage in the stainless steel flat products market is the reason prices are moving up, despite the disappointing demand, a producer source told Fastmarkets.

“[The shortage] is due to many [market participants] deciding to stop importing from Thailand and instead opting to buy from Europe. Big mills are offering material for shipment in November-December, which means material won’t be available to the end-user market before January 2024,” the producer source said.

October’s price increase is the first increase since February and the first price change since July.

There was no reason for the upward trend to stop in the coming months and distributors will be faced with a “pursuit to survive,” the producer source said.

And a distributor source said: “We’ve never been so uncertain as we are now, because of the macro-economic situation – because of Germany and because there is no demand. Everyone is in waiting mode.”

The distributor raised concerns about the closed nature of the market – in which suppliers can set prices and decide production levels.

“This situation is causing fear among distributors. We are waiting because [suppliers] are now increasing the prices, but the market is not [willing to] pay [those prices],” he said.

A second distributor hinted at potential “price dumping” and said: “If import materials decrease, we believe that a lot of the distributors will try to sell at any price.”

Fastmarket’s monthly stainless steel cold-rolled sheet 2mm grade 304 alloy surcharge domestic, Europe, was €2,193-2,212 per tonne on Friday, up from €2,179-2,209 per tonne one month earlier.

Surcharges for October will typically be based on alloy component costs between August 20 and September 21, when the average three-month daily official nickel price on the London Metal Exchange was $20,337 per tonne, a $740-per-tonne decline from $21,077 per tonne one month earlier.

Published by: Zdravko Cherkezov