Uncertainty slows Italian stainless steel activity

Italian stainless steel scrap activity has reached a standoff this month. Given ballooning nickel prices, scrap sellers and buyers are at odds with each other when it comes to quoting.

Last week, nickel prices ballooned and the London Metal Exchange suspended nickel trading, with scrap suppliers calling the situation a “global price inferno”.

Based on the few transactions registered this month, prices seem to have increased €300/tonne ($330/t) versus February for grade 304, but uncertainty has frozen activity.

Some merchants have so far refused to grant their suppliers the €300/t increase and decided to wait as values are escalating every day. The entire stainless steel sector is practically stopping. Service centres and re-rollers say “there is no market” (see separate article).

Some local long product mills are not buying scrap, while others have purchased grade 304 this month at approximately €2,500/t delivered. This grade sold at the beginning of January at $2,050/t delivered on average, Kallanish notes. As a consequence of high energy prices and the lack of raw materials, Italian and European mills are either stopping production or reducing it.

Nickel levels for cash buyers reached $100,000/t at the beginning of last week and then went down to $80,000/t, versus $23,225/t on 3 February.

Natalia Capra France