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Stainless steel: ‘limited’ margins for scrap sector

Global – During the third quarter, the price environment remained attractive and, in general, stainless steel market conditions improved considerably. Towards the end of the year, however, the anticipated decline in stainless crude output is likely to adversely affect mills’€™ scrap orders.

‘All of stainless steel’s major intrinsic alloys have rallied somewhat during the year in terms of price and so some correction during the fourth quarter would not come as a surprise,’ states Joost Van Kleef, chairman of BIR’s stainless steel & special alloys committee.

From the USA, it has been reported that major processors are continuing to overpay for the relatively low levels of material available, thus accounting for the ‘limited’ margins that have become an established facet of the stainless steel scrap business for its major players.

Stainless mills in India, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan offered generally weak demand for scrap in the third quarter, buying only small cargoes and making few spot purchases in response to high electricity charges in the summer and low stainless end-product demand at depressed prices.

Specifically in India, banks are also said to be ‘hounding’ mills to reduce their debt exposure. In the opening eight months of 2017, India imported ‎382 000 tonnes of 304 grade scrap, 87 000 tonnes of 316, 336 000 tonnes of 200 series scrap, 107 000 tonnes of 400 series scrap and 10 000 tonnes of high-nickel scrap‎.

‘‎With its impressive stainless steel production figures coupled with (Prime Minister) Modi’s continuing efforts to bring the country into the modern age, India should remain one of the most important markets for stainless steel scrap for many years to come,’ it is contended.

In recent months, scrap demand from mills in Italy has been sustained whereas supply has been ‘low to middling’. In the UK, rising prices over the summer period triggered an improved availability of stainless steel scrap, with the tonnages flowing into processors’ yards described as ‘healthy relative to the time of year’.

This article is based on the latest ‘World Mirror on Stainless Steel & Special Alloys’ produced by the BIR world recycling organisation for the benefit of its members.

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