MRC Global October 2017 InSight

Stainless Steel & Alloy Pipe, Fittings & Flanges

Nickel prices fell approximately 15% since the middle of Q2 2017 before rebounding in July and picking up over 6% with an upward trend continuing into August. As a result, the market enjoyed some reductions in stainless and alloy pricing for most of the year. However, as nickel pricing begins to increase, there will likely be a slight boost towards the end of Q3 2017. Often these trends can be short-lived and impacted by supply and demand issues.

The Stainless Steel Forum announced that global crude stainless steel production increased by over 14.5% in Q1 2017 when compared to the same period in 2016 (11.8 million tons vs. 10.3 million tons). More than half of this increase was retained by China, the world’s largest producer of stainless steel.

Nornickel announced in mid-August 2017 that they were reducing their market deficit forecast from 100,000 tons down to 45,000 tons based on optimism over improved ore supply from the Philippines and Indonesia. This could put downward pressure on nickel tag prices, which would potentially lower stainless and alloy prices.

Molybdenum prices saw a 20% spike in April 2017 before retreating to levels similar to January of this year. Ferrochrome prices have changed little since January, moving up or down 3% to 4%.

There was some merger and acquisition activity in the US stainless welded pipe manufacturing sector. Synalloy - Bristol Metals purchased Marcegaglia earlier this year, and Primus Pipe and Tubes (Ta Chen) acquired Outokumpu’s pipe and tube operations in Wildwood, Florida.

On August 16, 2017, the Coalition of American Flange Producers filed a petition with the US Department of Commerce and the US International Trade Commission for the imposition of anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties on imports of stainless steel flanges from China and India. For China, the petitioners allege dumping margins ranging from 79.93% to 216.96%. For India, the petitioners allege dumping margins ranging from 70.78% to 131.64%.

The products covered by this investigation are certain forged stainless steel flanges, whether unfinished, semi-finished or finished, generally manufactured to the material specification of ASTM/ASME A/SA182, and made in alloys such as, but not limited to, 304, 304L, 316, and 316L (or combinations thereof).

As a consequence of market uncertainty, MRC Global is seeing significant cost increases on stainless steel flanges from both domestic and import manufacturers. Increases range from 25% on domestic goods to as much as 100% for import products. The higher cost inventories will begin to arrive in 4 to 6 weeks.

We anticipate that the demand for stainless and alloy pipe, fittings and flanges will strengthen during the second half of 2017 and into 2018 as new projects are currently under review. Due to market volatility, it is advised to continue checking market pricing and delivery schedules in advance of purchases.