November 6, 2023

Stainless Steel Market Summary

Market Steady In Australia & New Zealand

The Australian market for stainless steel during the months of September and October improved, albeit marginally, with most major distributors having trimmed their stock holdings to historically normal levels. Notwithstanding, stainless-steel prices continue to drift sideways, while high inventories among service centres in Taiwan and China suggest that we remain in a buyer’s market. The actual demand for stainless steel has continued to improve due to its usage in the building industry. Distributors now require material to be delivered in January 2024. Usually, the market slows in October because buyers don´t want material to arrive during the December shutdown. January likewise is traditionally a slow month. The major Chinese mills have maintained the same or similar price levels during September and October, and they are trying to maintain the current market price with an upward bias. Along with a weaker Australian dollar, the landed price for grade 304 and 316 in AUD has not moved much despite a slower


domestic market in China. The Taiwanese service centres, which normally follow the lead of the major Chinese mills, have dropped their offering price by around US$50 per m/t to a range of US$2250-2300 per m/t CFR main Australian ports. The extra for moly grade (ie. 316L) is now trading in the band of US$1750-1800 from both China and Taiwan. Both Yieh Corp and Walsin Lihwa (the leading stainless steel producers in Taiwan), initially announced that prices for both domestic and export sales will be unchanged for October, in line with market expectations. Subsequently, however, Yieh Corp has said it will cut its 304-grade local prices for November. The European price for 316L is lower than this but the 304 prices from Europe are significantly higher than from Asia which has led to less tonnages being imported from the European mills. This applies for standard grades on offer from both China and Taiwan. The New Zealand market for stainless steel has slowed over the last quarter but is now showing some signs of improvement. Meanwhile, nickel on the LME has stabilised and is now trading around US$18,100 per m/t. However, with the continued expansion of nickel pig iron in Indonesia, the nickel market will be in surplus for 2023/2024. This will likely rule out any significant rebound in the current months. Ferro Molybdenum is now trading at around US$44,000 per m/t which is a hefty 21% down from its price at the beginning of September.

Stainless Steel Feedstock Index

Stainless Steel Feedstock Index – EAF (AUD)
Stainless Steel Feedstock Index – EAF (USD)

The Stainless Steel Feedstock Index (SSFI) is a creation of the newsletter Australian Steel News (ASN). Whilst it doesn´t show the actual cost of buying stainless steel in the Australian marketplace, it does show the month-to-month change in the combined price of the ingredients typically used in the making of one tonne of 304 grade stainless steel via the electric arc furnace (EAF) method. First, the following pricing information is obtained:

Iron ore  –  62% Fe fines iron ore CFR China via SGX. Group.

Ferro Chromium  –  Latest price range average from Argus Media.

Nickel  –  London Metal Exchange 3-month futures closing price.

We assume the composition to be iron ore 70%, ferro chromium 18% and nickel 8%. (The cost of the remaining 4% of ingredients is minimal). The prices for the main three ingredients are combined to give the SSFI which is expressed in USD and AUD terms per metric tonne.