Price Upturn Forecast in North American Stainless Steel Market in First Half of 2019
MEPS North American average stainless steel transaction values decreased, in October, due to large reductions in alloy surcharges. Basis numbers remained stable. Mill delivery lead times, for new production, remain short. Price negotiations may be possible, therefore, on basis numbers for larger order volumes. Purchasing activity reduced due, in part, to political uncertainty, ahead of the midterm elections and year-end destocking.
Selling figures are forecast to continue to move down, during the remainder of 2018, mainly due to reductions in raw material costs. Low inventory levels, in the market, could lead to a rise in purchasing activity, early in the new year. This is expected to result in extended mill delivery lead times, at that time. Steel producers are likely to implement basis price rises, in the first quarter of 2019. Anticipated increases in raw material costs will, almost certainly, add to the upward pressure on stainless steel transaction values, in the first half of next year. Trade defence measures will continue to add to volatility in the market.
The average LME cash nickel price slipped, in October. The daily nickel value traded at a 2018 low, towards the end of the month. Weakness in the equity markets, Italian budget concerns and a recent rise in the US Federal Reserve rate is putting downward pressure on nickel prices. A gloomy macro-economic outlook raised concerns over demand-growth. Nickel prices are likely to remain subdued, in the short term. A deficit, in the nickel market, is anticipated, in 2019. This, coupled with a positive demand outlook, should result in a recovery in prices, early in the new year. Some mines are expected to continue with output cuts, next year, due to the low value of nickel.
Molybdenum prices remained subdued, in early October. However, a recent rebound in downstream demand boosted selling values, of late. Supply and demand fundamentals, in the molybdenum market, should improve, in early 2019, and are likely to put upward pressure on prices.