Global stainless steel transaction values are currently influenced by several inflationary factors. The usual effect of variable steelmaking raw material costs has been compounded by the tightening supply of graphite electrodes, for use in electric arc furnaces.
The London Metal Exchange (LME) nickel cash value climbed from a low point of US$8710 per tonne, in early June, to a peak of US$12140 per tonne, in September – an increase of 39 percent, in three months. Initially, this was, in part, offset by the sharp fall in the EU ferrochrome contract price, to US$1.10 per pound, for the third quarter. However, the North American Stainless (NAS) alloy surcharge for grade 304 flat products rose by $110 per tonne, month-on-month, in September. With the EU ferrochrome contract being settled at US$1.39 per pound, for the fourth quarter, the NAS 304 surcharge will soar by $265 per tonne, for October. The corresponding European (Outokumpu) surcharge will increase by €141 per tonne, next month.
The LME nickel value declined, following its early September high point. Consequently, MEPS expects that European surcharges will be quite stable, in November, while those in the United States will fall.
The price of graphite electrodes recently became a significant factor in the cost of electric arc furnace steel production. The output of electrodes, in China, has been reduced by industry restructuring, as well as by environmental protection measures. Furthermore, the supply of needle coke – the primary raw material for graphite electrodes – in the United States, was hit by the effects of Hurricane Harvey. This shortage resulted in spot price offers for electrodes rising to as much as seven times the existing contract figures.
All electric arc steelmakers have discussed the necessity for them to recoup this outlay by increasing their selling values. The Finnish stainless steel producer, Outokumpu, became the first to announce a formal “upcharge”. An extra €30 per tonne will be applied to all new contracts, with immediate effect. The figure will be updated, monthly.